Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 25 December 2009; Revised 30 November 2017
Scripture: The Scripture text of Luke 2 used below is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Other Bible versions are also quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Dates of Israelite kings are from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Dates of the nativity are from Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings (1992). Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the definitions of Greek words are from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Torah (Law), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Account of Luke" because that is how Luke introduces his story (Luke 1:1).
Introduction: Luke's narrative of the nativity continues in verses 1 to 39. See the chronological order and dating of the nativity at the beginning of the commentary on Luke 1. Yeshua's early history then fast forwards to an event when Yeshua was twelve years of age and summarizes his youthful years in Nazareth. For Matthew's account of the nativity click here: Matthew 1. See also the note on Luke 3:23, which says that Yeshua was "about 30" at his immersion.
Census of Caesar, 2:1-5
Birth in Bethlehem, 2:6-7
Angelic Announcement to Shepherds, 2:8-14
Witness of the Shepherds, 2:15-20
Brit Milah of Yeshua, 2:21
Presentation and Purification, 2:22-24
Witness of Simeon, 2:25-35
Witness of Hannah, 2:36-38
Return to Nazareth, 2:39-40
Passover in Jerusalem, 2:41-50
Maturation in Nazareth, 2:51-52
Date: Fall of 3 B.C.
Census of Caesar, 2:1-5
1 Now it happened in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register all the inhabited earth.
Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The second usage applies here. it happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive.
in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position with the root meaning of "within," and may be rendered "in, on, at, among, or within" as appropriate to the context (DM 105). those: pl. of Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera, may refer to (1) the time period from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). Here the fourth meaning applies with the phrase pertaining the nativity story begun in the previous chapter. The phrase may also hint at the third meaning.
a decree: Grk. dogma, a pronouncement or declaration with binding force, in this case an imperial ordinance. went out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. act. ind., to move away from a place or position. The verb indicates physical movement, no doubt by government messengers. from: Grk. para, lit. "from the side of." The preposition may allude to the work of an official secretary. Caesar: Grk. Kaisar was originally the family name of Julius, the first emperor. In time it became a title of the Roman head of state. Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus in 63 BC, he was named in the will of his maternal great uncle Julius Caesar as his adopted son and heir, and thereafter took the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. Augustus: Grk. Augoustos, a title. Augustus was the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 31 BC until his death in AD 14.
After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC Octavian was granted consular powers by the Senate in 43 BC. In 27 BC the Senate awarded him the honorific “Augustus” meaning honored one (with overtones of divinity), and thus consequently he was Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus. Because of the various names he bore, historians usually call him Octavius, his real name, when referring to events between 63 and 44 BC, Octavian (or Octavianus) when referring to events between 44 and 27 BC, and Augustus when referring to events after 27 BC. Early church fathers reported on the year of Yeshua's birth in relation to the reign of Augustus, most saying the 41st year, others saying the 42nd year and a couple the 28th year.
2. The 42nd year of Augustus' reign: (a) Eusebius (263-339), Church History I, 5:2; (b) Epiphanius (315-403), Panarion 51.22.3
3. The 28th year of Augustus' reign: Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), (Stromata 1:21).
The 41st year of Augustus' reign is evidently calculated from when he was elevated to consulship, in August 43 BC. The 42nd year is most likely calculated from when Augustus inherited Julius Caesar's property and took over leadership of his army in the Fall of 44 BC. Clement's mention of the 28th year is based on the date of the Battle of Actium (31 BC) when Augustus attained sole power as Emperor.
In a similar vein both Tertullian and Eusebius date the nativity in the 28th year after the death of Antony and Cleopatra. Tertullian also adds that Messiah's birth was fifteen years before the death of Augustus. Cleopatra died in August 30 BC, and Augustus died in August AD 14. So, taken together the church fathers affirm Yeshua's birth in 3/2 BC. Finegan lists other church fathers with different dating methods, but all concurring with the 3/2 BC timeframe (288-291).
to register: Grk. apographō, pres. mid. inf., to write down in a list, to register or to record. The middle voice would have the meaning of "to get enrolled" or "to enroll oneself." While the general assumption is that the enrollment was for tax purposes, it could also have been done for the purposes of determining the members of royal or noble families and obtaining a loyalty oath to Augustus. of all: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. the inhabited earth: Grk. oikoumenē, the world as an inhabited area, but more specifically the world under Roman jurisdiction. In this case the term may refer more specifically to the provinces of the Empire. The clause could be translated "that all the ones in the Empire be enrolled."
Critics claim that there is no known evidence of an Empire-wide census in the reign of Augustus, but such a viewpoint rests both on a refusal to treat Scripture as valid history and laziness to research records of ancient historians. Luke uses the present tense to indicate the ongoing nature of the censuses ordered by Augustus that did involve the entire Roman Empire. Luke does not imply that there was one massive world-wide census taken at the same time or even in the same year. The ongoing census took years to complete and the registration in the land of Israel coincided with the events described in Luke 1.
Various Roman historical documents attest considerable census activity instigated by Augustus. In Res Gestae Divi Augusti, (Latin: "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus"), a funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, gives a first-person record of his reign. In Part II, 8 Augustus records his census activity of Roman citizens. Suetonius (AD 71-135) in Lives of the Twelve Caesars has several references to the census activity of Augustus (The Life of Augustus 27:5; 37:1; 40:2; The Life of Tiberius 21:1). In fact, according to Suetonius Augustus revived the office of censor, that had been inactive for forty-one years prior to his accession. Tacitus (AD 56-117), the Roman historian, records a special ceremony in AD 14 conducted by Tiberius to honor Augustus. A eulogy on the occasion contained a description of the resources of the State, including the number of citizens in all the kingdoms and provinces of the empire, determined by the census activity of Augustus, and the taxes collected (Annals of Imperial Rome, Book I).
This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes its use or follows it; this, these. first: Grk. prōtos may indicate (1) having primary position in a sequence; first, earlier, earliest; or (2) standing out in significance or importance; first, prominent. The noun would indicate the very first (Danker). census: Grk. apographē , lit. "list" or "inventory," of the statistical reports and declarations of citizens for the purpose of completing the tax lists and family registers (BAG). The expression apographē protē always involved reporting to the authorities, enrolling, and declaring real estate. Only after this came the apotimēsis, in which the category and level of taxation were determined and collected. Geldenhuys and Liefeld suggest that Luke uses the noun protē to distinguish this census from the later one in AD 6 mentioned in Acts 5:37.
happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See the previous verse. when Quirinius: Grk. Kurēnios, a transliteration of the Latin name Quirinius, "warrior" (KJV "Cyrenius"). A Roman aristocrat his full Latin name was Publius Sulpicius Quirinius. He lived c.51 BC‒21 AD. was commander: Grk. hēgemoneuo, pres. mid. part., according to Danker to govern, used only of provincial administrators. However, the verb basically means to lead or to lead the way or command (BAG). The verb does not refer to an office per se but the activity of leadership. Josephus uses the verb to refer to Varus, the governor of Syria during the reign of Herod the Great (Ant. XV, 10:1). According to LSJ the verb may mean (1) to be or act as a prince or governor; to go before, lead the way; or (2) to lead in war, to rule, command.
Thayer also notes the two usages of the verb. Almost all versions translate the participle as "governor." As a result of this translation some commentators have decided that Luke made a mistake in defining the time of this enrollment (Thayer). Quirinius did not begin governing in Syria until after the exile of Archelaus, generally considered to be A.D. 6. The actual governor of Syria at this time was Publius Quinctilius Varus. I don't believe the problem is with Luke but the common translation of "governor."
of Syria: Grk. Suria, a region of Asia, bounded on the north by the Taurus and Amanus ranges, on the east by the Euphrates and Arabia, on the south by Galilee, and on the west by Phoenicia and the Mediterranean Sea. Luke probably intends the Roman province which was linked with Cilicia. When Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, was banished in AD 6 Judea was annexed to Syria. Quirinius is mentioned by Josephus in four places (Ant. XVII, 13:5; XVIII, 1:1; 2:1-2; XX, 5:2), none of which are during the time of the nativity of Yeshua. Two facts should be noted about Luke's narrative.
First, Luke does not mention Quirinius to say that he supervised the census that brought Joseph and Miriam to Bethlehem. The Roman leader is only mentioned as a dating reference because he was noteworthy in relation to the census Luke reports in Acts 5:37. Second, the verb Luke uses most likely alludes to when Quirinius was commanding Roman forces between 5 BC and 3 BC when he fought against a brigand tribe called Homonadensians in Cilicia, which was part of the province of Syria. See the biographical survey here of the life of Quirinius by Jona Lendering.
Stern suggests that Quirinius was in charge of Syria's defense and foreign policy under Publius Quinctilius Varus, who was governor of Syria 7-4 BC (107). NIBD concurs that Quirinius may have been a military commander who shared civil duties with Varus (893). Because of his service to Syria, Varus could have sent Quirinius into Herod’s territory to supervise the registration. Thus, Justin Martyr (110-165 AD) says, "on the occasion of the first census which was taken in Judaea, under Cyrenius, he went up from Nazareth, where he lived, to Bethlehem, to which he belonged, to be enrolled" (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, §78).
The start date of this census cannot be determined conclusively, but since King Herod lost the favor of the Emperor in 8 BC, it is obvious that some change must also have taken place in Judea's privileged tax relationship at that time. Regarding Quirinius, the Emperor entrusted him with the affairs of the East and the supervision of the taxation. Since the demotion of Herod the Great took place in 8 BC, Santala suggests that the "first enrolment", apographē, which centered on Israel, would be underway by 7 BC (97). Josephus reports that this taxation assessment concluded with the apotimēsis phase in AD 7 (Ant. XVIII, 2:1). The accomplishment of the whole taxation assessment in 14 years was an unparalleled achievement, and one for which Quirinius received due recognition. While Santala doesn't suggest a year for the census, there is an intriguing suggestion for 3 BC.
Arguing for a 3 BC date for the nativity Dr. Craig Chester, a noted astronomer, explains in the scholarly journal Imprimis the most likely nature of the enrollment mentioned by Luke.
"The year 2 B.C. marked the 25th anniversary of the reign of Caesar Augustus and the 750th anniversary of the founding of Rome. Huge celebrations were planned. The whole empire was at peace. The doors of the temple of Janus were closed for only the third time in Roman history. To honor their emperor, the people were to rise as one and name him pater patriae, or "Father of the Country." Now, getting the people of an empire to do something "spontaneously" requires a great deal of organization. And so an enrollment, or census, was ordered." (Craig Chester, "Star of Bethlehem")
Not mentioned by Chester is that Augustus refused the honor unless the people agreed, and this coincided with the order for a pledge of allegiance from not only all the populace, but most especially from anyone in any royal line in any province who might try to claim the crown at some time. This included the line of David in Judea, of which both Joseph and Miriam were a part. The decree for the registration and pledge was issued in early August of 3 B.C. and had been completed by the end of the year. On February 5, 2 B.C., Augustus was granted, and accepted, the title of Pater Patraie. Suetonius, the Roman historian, writes that the Senate conferred the honor on Augustus with the support of the people of Rome in 2 B.C. (The Twelve Caesars, II, §58). Chester's summary of events is also provided by Barry Setterfield in his presentation The Christmas Star: Technical Notes.
Conclusion. The registration of Augustus was acted on in Judea in the autumn of 3 BC. Yeshua the Messiah was probably born about that time. See my PowerPoint presentation on this subject: When Was Yeshua Born?
3 and all went to be registered, each into his city.
and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction, as here and throughout this chapter, is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of Luke's Hebraic writing style.
all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 1 above. "All" does not leave anyone out of a referenced group, but for the purpose stated they would have been primarily heads of households. went: Grk. poreuō, impf. mid., to move from one part of an area to another, to make one's way. The subject and verb indicates considerable traffic on the roads of Israel. to be registered: Grk. apographō, pres. pass. inf., to write down in a list, to enroll oneself, get registered. each: Grk. ekastos, adj., each unit being viewed individually; each, every, every one. into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival.
his: Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the third person, of himself. city: Grk. polis, a population center, whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly. The stipulation in the enrollment is that men had to go to the city of their ancestors. When Augustus conducted the census in Italy people simply enrolled where they lived, but he gave every consideration to the national custom in other cultures. Since the enrollment of Judea was made through its monarch, King Herod, then the Jewish custom was followed to allow Israelites go to their original native city for the taxation (Geldenhuys 100).
4 Now Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the town of Nazareth, to Judah, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, due to his being from the house and family of David,
Now: Grk. de, conj. Joseph: Grk. Iōsēph, a transliteration of Heb. Yosef, which is explained in Genesis 30:24 and means "he adds, increases" (BDB 415). also went up: Grk. anabainō, aor., to go up or ascend a height. The verb represents a Hebrew idiom that alludes to the fact that most ancient cities were built on high ground wherever possible. In this case the destination was located in a mountainous area. from Galilee: Grk. Galilaia from the Heb. Galil, lit. "circle" or "region." Galilee was the northern part of Israel above the hill country of Ephraim and of Judah and encompassed the areas originally given to the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dan. In the time of Yeshua Galilee was a Roman province measuring about 40 miles north to south and about 30 miles east to west. Galilee was bounded by the Province of Syria on the west and north, the River Jordan and Sea of Galilee on the east and the Province of Judea on the south.
out of: Grk. ek, prep. with the root meaning of "out of, from within" (DM 102), denoting origin; from among. the town: Grk. polis. See the previous verse. of Nazareth: Grk. Nazareth, which transliterates the Heb. Natzeret ("watchtower"), the name of a town in Galilee. Nazareth was located about seventy miles northeast of Jerusalem in lower Galilee about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. It lay in the hill country north of the Plain of Esdraelon. The hills formed a natural basin with three sides, but open toward the south. The city was on the slopes of the basin, facing east and southeast. A Roman road from Capernaum westward to the coast passed near Nazareth. The small town does not appear in the Tanakh at all and only came to prominence because of its association with Yeshua. No information is provided on how the soon-to-be parents of Yeshua came to be living in Nazareth.
to: Grk. eis, prep., into. Judah: Grk. Ioudaia transliterates the Heb. name Y'hudah, which means "praised" or "object of praise" (Gen 29:35; BDB 397). The first readers of Luke might assume he meant the Roman province of Judaea formed in AD 6, which comprised Idumea, historic Judea and Samaria. However, this was 3 B.C. and Luke simply says that Joseph went into Judea from Galilee. Luke passes over the fact that Joseph would have traveled through Samaria. Some Christian scholars assert (without citing any evidence) that Jews did not travel through Samaria. Strict Hebraic Jews (Pharisees) may well have avoided the heart of Samaria because of deep religious differences (see my comment on John 4:9 and 20-22), but again there is no historical evidence of such assumed avoidance.
There were two routes from Galilee to Judea. (See the map of the highway network in the Land here.) There was a major Roman highway along the coast, but the quickest route was through the center of Samaria. Josephus says, "It was the custom of the Galileans, when they came to the holy city at the festivals, to take their journeys through the country of the Samaritans" (Ant. XX, 6:1). Yeshua himself would later make the trip through Samaria when he traveled to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-52; 17:11) and when he traveled to Galilee (John 4:4). Also, according to Josephus' autobiography the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem took three days (Life §52).
to the City: Grk. polis. of David: Grk. David which transliterates the Heb. David ("dah-veed") perfectly. David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1 Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority.
Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2 Chron 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1 Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2 Sam 23:2).
God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14). Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 2Chr 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 33:21). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5).
"City of David" is a place name originally given to a stronghold of Mt. Zion in Jerusalem which the Jebusites held, but was captured by David. Thereafter David gave the stronghold his name and called it the City of David (2Sam 5:9). However, Luke immediately clarified that he was not talking about Jerusalem. which: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun; whoever, whatever; whosoever, whatsoever. is called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass., to identify by name or give a term to; call. Bethlehem: Grk. Bēthleem, which roughly transliterates Heb. Beit-Lechem, house of bread. Situated five miles south of Jerusalem the village is first mentioned in Genesis 35:19. The village gained special importance as David's birthplace and place of anointing, and thus became his city. It was universally accepted among Jews that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem as prophesied in Micah 5:2.
due to: Grk. dia, prep., lit. "through." his being: Grk. eimi, pres. inf., to be, exist; a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). from the house: Grk. oikos, a structure for habitation, but idiomatically the persons inhabiting a house, and by extension ancestors. and family: Grk. patria, a people group linked by kinship. In context "house" would be a broader term than "family." of David: David had at least 8 wives and 10 concubines, and at least 19 sons, making for a sizable "house," and a considerable number of descendants in the 1st century AD. However, Matthew 1:6-7 makes it clear that the Messianic line went from David through his son Solomon.
5 to register with Miriam, the one having been betrothed to him, she being pregnant.
to register: Grk. apographō, aor. mid. inf. See verse 1 above. with Miriam: Grk. Maria, fem. name, an attempt at transliterating the Heb. Miryam (Miriam in English). The meaning of the name is not known for certain, the best interpretation I've found is at BehindtheName.com which says that Miriam "was most likely originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love." (See my note on Luke 1:27 for more on her name.) Luke informs his readers that Miriam lived in Nazareth (1:26-27) and that she was of the lineage of David, at least through her father (Luke 3:23).
the one having betrothed: Grk. mnēsteuō, perf. pass. part., means lit. "to woo and win," commit to marriage, and in Jewish culture meant betrothed. The perfect tense of the verb refers to some point in the past, perhaps as much as a year. The passive voice of the verb indicates the fact that a Jewish woman was betrothed to her husband, not vice versa. The participle is a verbal noun so it refers to a relational condition of Miriam. She belonged to Joseph. In the LXX mnēsteuō translates the Heb. aras, to betroth (Ex 22:16; Deut 20:7).
The translation of "engaged" in many versions is inexplicable and misleading. In Western culture "engaged" is only a promise to marry, but the Jewish custom was both religious and legal. I heard one Christian preacher describe Miriam as an "unwed mother," a totally inaccurate if not defamatory opinion of Miriam's marital status. A few versions have "pledged to be married" or "promised in marriage," but these phrases, too, imply that she was not married. Several versions correctly have "betrothed" (ASV, BLB, DHE, ESV, NAB, NEB, NJB, NKJV, OJB, REV, RSV).
The verb alludes to the fact that in Jewish culture marriage involved two stages or two ceremonies, erusin and nisuin. After a marriage proposal was accepted the groom would perform a ceremony called erusin, "betrothal" (Deut 20:7; 22:23, 25; 28:30; 2Sam 3:14; cf. 2Cor 11:2). According to the Mishnah (Kidd. 1:1), a woman could be acquired [in marriage] in three ways: by money or its equivalent (cf. Gen 29:18; 34:12; Ex 21:11; 22:16), by deed (cf. Gen 24:3-4; Judg 14:2; Ruth 4:9-10), or by intercourse (cf. Deut 22:28-29). A deed was almost always involved because marriage included a transfer of property. While parents might agree on a marriage for their daughter she could only be married by her consent after she was considered an adult. She also had to be capable of giving birth.
The erusin stage was also called kiddushin, "sanctification," and meant that from that point the woman belonged to the man. That is, the woman became forbidden to all men but to whom she has now been designated. Erusin-Kiddushin made the woman a legal wife and her status could only be changed by divorce or death. Erusin was usually accomplished by the groom giving a coin or ring to the prospective bride and her acceptance of the token accomplished kiddushin. By the first century tradition had standardized the betrothal period to not exceed twelve months for a virgin (Ket. 5:2). Following the betrothal period the marriage was completed by nisuin whereby the groom took his bride into a private chamber and consummated the marriage. There was no formal wedding ceremony as such. For more information see my web article Marriage in Ancient Israel.
According to Matthew 1:24-25 Joseph took Miriam into his home as if to consummate the marriage, but in fact had no sexual relations with her until after Yeshua was born. This gracious act would spare Miriam the public shame of being accused as an adulteress and give the appearance of being betrothed by sexual intercourse, which was legitimate under Jewish law. Luke’s use of the term "betrothed" is intended to emphasize an unconsummated relationship when in fact everyone would assume there had been consummation.
to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Joseph. she being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See the previous verse. The verb is fem. sing. pregnant: Grk. egkuos, to be pregnant with child. Luke does not inform the reader of how far along Miriam's pregnancy was when the couple left for Bethlehem. From a purely human point of view one might wonder why he took Miriam with him. Liefeld suggests that Joseph used the emperor's order as a means of removing Miriam from possible gossip and emotional stress in her own village. Actually, gossip would probably be minimal since Miriam had been Joseph's legal wife by betrothal well before he took her into his home.
If Miriam was advanced in pregnancy it would probably be normal to leave her at home in the hands of her mother and a midwife. Regardless of the date, a loving husband would not want leave his pregnant wife at home and with the upheaval of people traveling for the tax enrollment, there would probably be no lack of assistance for Miriam. In addition, Joseph and Miriam both had the prophetic announcements as to the significance of her first-born son and no doubt understood the providential circumstances that would take them to Bethlehem.
Date: September 3 B.C.
Birth in Bethlehem, 2:6-7
6 Now it happened while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth,
Now: Grk. de, conj. it happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 1 above. while: Grk. en, prep. generally functioning as a marker of position, lit. "in" or "within." In this verse the prep. is used to indicate the framework of time within which something takes place; while, when. they: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, masc. pl. were: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 4 above. there: Grk. ekei, adv., in that place. This is a very indefinite time reference. It's easy to assume that Miriam had her baby on the evening of the day they arrived, as is typically depicted in Christmas plays. The typical Luke phrase "And it came about" indicates the passage of time. So, whether it was hours, days, or weeks, Luke does not tell us.
the days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 1 above. were completed: Grk. pimplēmi, aor. pass., to cause to be at a point in time that marks the completion or fulfillment of a scheduled moment or expectation for something to take place. for her to give birth: Grk. tiktō, aor. inf., to cause to come into being, to give birth. Miriam carried her baby full term, so when nine months or 38 weeks were completed Miriam went into labor.
7 and she gave birth to her son, the firstborn, and wrapped him in strips of cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was not a place for them in the inn.
and she gave birth: Grk. tiktō, aor. See the previous verse. Luke does not explain whether Miriam had any assistance in the delivery, but it's reasonable to suppose that there were women available to help. Miriam delivered her baby in normal way without harm to either mother or baby. In the modern age women are accustomed to having their babies delivered by medical doctors in a hospital, although some women do employ natural child birth at home. In ancient times delivery was normally accomplished at home (except in this story) with the aid of a midwife (e.g. Ex 1:15-21). Women delivered their babies while kneeling or squatting, usually on a birthing stool or birthing bricks (Ex 1:16), if available. Miriam may have had to just squat on the ground.
to her son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben ("son," "son of"), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5). (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32), as Yeshua is referred to as the son of David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3), and this too applies here in reference to his humanity acquired from his mother.
the firstborn: Grk. prototokos, first childbirth or first offspring, thus firstborn. In the Tanakh only males are identified as "firstborn." In Jewish culture giving birth to a son was the hope of every Jewish mother and the cause of much joy in the family. To have a son meant that the family name would continue within Israel (cf. Deut 25:6). The mention of Yeshua being Miriam's firstborn son alludes to the fact that she had other sons by Joseph. The Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary has no basis in Scripture and denies this godly woman her place in Jewish culture as a wife and mother. Yeshua had at least four brothers: Jacob, Joseph, Judah and Simon (Matt 13:55 TLV).
and wrapped him in strips of cloths: Grk. sparganoō, aor., to bind with cloth bands, to swaddle or to swathe. In the LXX sparganoō, renders the noun Heb. chathullah, swaddling band, in Job 38:9, where God depicts the creation of the earth as bringing forth from a womb and wrapping in swaddling cloths, and the verb chathal, to entwine or enwrap in Ezekiel 16:4, where God depicts the origin of Jerusalem in terms of a nativity. While Luke spares his readers of the physical aspects of the birth they may be deduced from the description in Ezekiel 16:4, the navel cord was cut, the infant then washed with water for cleansing, rubbed with salt for disinfecting and wrapped in swaddling cloths. Being snugly wrapped in long strips of cloth gave the baby warmth, protection of extremities, and a sense of security in their newborn existence.
One source suggests that the swaddling bands were 5-6" wide strips of linen that would be embroidered with symbols of the ancestry of the bride and groom and prepared by the bride during the betrothal period (Jenedy Paige, Little Lamb). ISBE says the swaddling-clothes consisted of a square of cloth and two or more bandages. The child was laid on the cloth diagonally and the corners folded over the feet and body and under the head, the bandages then being tied so as to hold the cloth in position. This device forms the clothing of the child until it is about a year old, and its omission (Ezek 16:4) would be a token that the child had been abandoned.
and laid: Grk. anaklinō, aor., cause to recline. him in a manger: Grk. phatnē, which can refer to a manger, stall or even a feeding place under the open sky (BAG 862; LSJ). A manger is trough or box of carved stone or wood construction used to hold food for animals (as in a stable). Tradition identified the location of the manger as a cave. Robert Helfinstine offers this helpful information on the birthplace of Yeshua as a result of a trip he made to Israel in 1966.
"Bethlehem sits on a hill of limestone, and in the hillsides are caves hewn out of the rock. Many were used for sheltering flocks and herds. The cave in which Joseph and Mary found shelter was new and had not yet been used for animals. It was clean, warm and private. There were no disturbances like those in the campground. When the shepherds went to Bethlehem after receiving the announcement from the angels of the Savior's birth, they knew exactly where to go to find the babe lying in a manger. Consider this. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in a new cave hewn out of rock. When he died 33 years later, he was buried in a new tomb hewn out of rock less than ten miles from where he was born." (No Room in the Inn)
because: Grk. dioti, conj., on the very account that, because, inasmuch as. there was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 4 above. not: Grk. ou, adv., a strong negation of fact. a place: Grk. topos, a spatial area, here of a structure; place. for them in the inn: Grk. kataluma, a shelter where people stayed. This was no motel as we commonly think. This was a building built in a square with a court in the middle intended for the beasts of burden, while rooms opened upon galleries all around (Edersheim-Sketches 49). The rooms would not be furnished. However, there would be someone who could for a fee procure anything a guest might need (e.g., the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:35). Providing hospitality was highly valued in Jewish culture (cf. Heb 13:2) and travelers usually stayed in private homes. In Jerusalem if someone had a room available they would hang a curtain in front of the door (Edersheim-Sketches 47). Perhaps the same custom applied in Bethlehem.
Contrary to Christmas plays Luke does not portray the owner of the inn as a villain. That there was "no room" does not mean that Joseph and Miriam were denied a room that was in fact available. There was no room because the town was overcrowded with people who had come to register for the enrollment. The narrative implies there was only one inn to found in the city. The mention of the inn in juxtaposition with "manger" suggests the livestock cave was owned by the inn. Thus, the cave was offered by a hospitable host. The lack of room was probably a good thing, because there was a danger at inns during Herod’s reign. According to Josephus spies of Herod beset the people in town and country. They would stay at inns in order to listen in on conversations to pick up any negative opinion about Herod (Ant. XV, 10:4). Any talk against the king could have fatal consequences. So, it was not a bad thing for Miriam to give birth to the true King of the Jews away from prying eyes.
Angelic Announcement to Shepherds, 2:8-14
8 And there were shepherds in the same region, living out in the fields and keeping a watch at night over their flock.
And there were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 4 above. shepherds: Grk. poimēn, masc. pl., one who watches over sheep, a shepherd. Stern points out that shepherding was a despised occupation in Middle Eastern countries (107). Such prejudice was because shepherds were thought of as thieves. According to the Talmud people were cautious about buying milk and wool from shepherds for fear that they had been stolen (Baba Kama 118b). Fathers refused to teach their sons this trade. The trade too easily lent itself to dishonesty and thievery. No doubt, this assessment of shepherding led to their being prohibited from giving evidence in court (Sanhedrin 25a).
in the same region: Grk. chōra, a stretch of territory in contrast with owned property, region or area. This would have been an area not considered within the boundaries of Bethlehem. Centuries before David had shepherded a flock in this area (1Sam 17:34-35). living out in the fields: Grk. agrauleō, pres. part., to live in the open field, to be out of doors. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The Mishnah expressly forbade the keeping of flocks throughout the land of Israel, except in the wilderness (B.K. 7:6). In other words the flocks were not to be kept inside cities, but in the countryside. Thus, the open fields were the dwelling place of the shepherds.
and keeping: Grk. phulassō, pres. part., to serve as a sentinel, to guard or watch. a watch: Grk. phulakē, a guarding, guard, watch. at night: Grk. nux, as a chronological period, sunset to sunrise, night. over: Grk. epi, prep. used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'at, in, on, upon, over.' their flock: Grk. poimnę, flock of animals, here sheep. Sheep were just as subject to being prey for wild animals at night as in the daytime, thus the necessity of keeping a watch through the night. The flock may have been comprised of separate flocks, but collected together for the nighttime (Geldenhuys 111). Yeshua later applied this commitment to the security of the sheep flock to himself, because he is the Good Shepherd (John 10:7-30).
Edersheim suggests that the shepherds here were not ordinary shepherds, since the flocks mentioned here likely were destined for Temple sacrifices (131), and cites the Mishnah:
"If cattle was found in Jerusalem as far as Migdal Eder, and within a like distance on any side [of Jerusalem], males [must be considered as being] burnt-offerings, but females must be considered as] peace-offerings. R. Judah says: If they were fit for the Passover-offering, [they must be considered as] Passover-offerings [when found] within thirty days before the feast [of Passover]." (Shek. 7:4).
Migdal Eder ("tower of the flock") was located on the road from Jerusalem to Hebron (cf. Gen 35:21; Mic 4:8), and may have been near Bethlehem. According to the Talmud editor most cattle in Jerusalem and the vicinity were intended for sacrifices. Edersheim also says that according to Jewish belief of the time the Messiah was to be revealed from Migdal Eder (cf. Mic 4:8 and 5:2-5). The suggestion as to the purpose of the sheep herd in the nativity narrative is appealing because Yeshua would be later introduced as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
Edersheim, arguing for a December nativity, claims that sheep were kept in the wilderness areas year round based on the Mishnah statement cited above that sheep found in and around Jerusalem within thirty days of Passover could be used for that festival. Liefeld concurs with Edersheim about the December date saying,
"That the shepherds were out in the fields at night does not preclude a December date, as the winter in Judea was mild. But, of course, the text says nothing about the time of year. The traditional date for the Nativity was set, in order to draw Christian attention away from a pagan festival. December 25 was widely celebrated as the date of Yeshua' birth by the end of the fourth century."
Many Messianic Jews and some Christian commentators believe the arguments for the traditional date of the nativity to be flawed based on the shepherd narrative. Edersheim's interpretation of the Mishnah reads meaning into the text that isn't there. The Mishnah is only stating a possibility and is not saying that sheep were kept in fields everywhere in Israel year-round. While Luke does not mention the time of year, there are three good reasons to accept an autumn nativity. The first reason is that it was customary in Israel to send out their sheep to the deserts about the time of Passover, and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain in Cheshvan (Oct/Nov) (Clarke 857). The winter rains increase in intensity through the month of Kislev (Nov/Dec) into Tevet (Dec/Jan). The book of Ezra clearly indicates what the weather was like.
"So all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month [Kislev] on the twentieth of the month, and all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and the heavy rain." (Ezra 10:9)
The second reason is provided by Barry Setterfield.
"As to the time of the year that Messiah was born, Luke gives us further details. He records that shepherds were watching over their flocks by night. There are only two specific times in a year when this was done, namely when lambs were being born in the spring or autumn. At other times of the year they were kept safely in their sheep-folds to protect them from wild animals. Significantly the flocks bred in the Bethlehem fields were used for the Temple sacrifices." (The Christmas Star)
Third, the Greek word for "living in the fields" above is also interesting, because it does not mean living in a wilderness, which was a typical area for sheep herds (Num 14:33; 1Sam 17:28; 25:4; Ps 78:52). The word for "fields" (agrauleō) is formed from the noun agros (country area used chiefly for agriculture) and the verb auleō (to play the flute). Since the fields are agricultural fields, this is likely a reference to wheat fields after the late-summer harvest. Farmers would allow shepherds to bring their flocks into their fields after the harvest and after the poor people had gone into the fields to glean the leftover wheat. (See the article Shepherding in the Holy Land by Hani Abu Dayyeh reproduced in Setterfield, The Christmas Star: Discussion.)
9 And an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they feared with great fear.
And an angel: Grk. angelos means messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). The corresponding Hebrew word is malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel. The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or human relies primarily on the context. of the Lord: Grk. kurios generally means one in control through possession and may be rendered as lord, master or owner. Although sometimes kurios appears as a reference to a person of high or respected position, primarily it is used as a designation for God. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, principally to translate Heb. words for God. In the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), kurios replaces the Heb. Sacred Name YHVH (DNTT 2:511).
Often in the Tanakh and the Besekh the identification “of the Lord” is added to confirm the messenger as a heavenly being. Angels figure prominently in Scripture as ministering spirits (Mark 1:13; Heb 1:14). stood near: Grk. ephistēmi, aor., to come or stand near in a non-threatening mode, but sometimes with the connotation of suddenness as here. The verb suggests that the angel was probably on the ground eye level with the shepherds.
them and the glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). Geldenhuys suggests that doxa here probably refers to the Sh'khinah (115).
of the Lord shone around: Grk. perilampō, aor., to shine around. The angel may have looked as an ordinary human but the heavenly glory or light that enveloped him or radiated from his body in every direction gave away his heavenly origin. them and they feared: Grk. phobeō, aor., be in a state of apprehension; be afraid, fear. with great: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive; great. fear: Grk. phobos may mean (1) the feeling of need to escape from or avoid a threat; fear; (2) feeling of respect; reverence, awe; or (3) the process of causing in someone a feeling of need to escape from a situation; intimidation. The second meaning applies here.
This is a typical Hebraic way of stating a condition that gives emphasis to the narrative. The reaction of the shepherds to seeing the angel was the same as Zechariah (Luke 1:12). The suddenness and glory of the angelic appearance captured their immediate attention and respect. An angel had not appeared to any human being in this striking manner since the appearance of the heavenly messenger to Daniel, which may have been Gabriel (See my commentary on Daniel 10:4-8.)
Any reader of Luke's narrative in the first century might wonder why God would send angels to visit shepherds, given the low public opinion of their vocation. Of course, this is but one example of many in Scripture where God's opinion is clearly different than that of men. Geldenhuys suggests that the simple shepherds were pious men who longed for the coming of the promised Messiah (111). When the shepherds are set in contrast with the magi in Matthew 2, the nativity story emphasizes that the Messiah would be coming for the low and the high, to all those who longed for his appearance.
10 and the angel said to them, "Fear not! For behold, I proclaim Good News to you of great joy, which will be to all the people.
and the angel said: Grk. lego, to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or written, here the former. The angel used voice communication and no doubt spoke in Hebrew. Fear: Grk. phobeō, pres. mid. imp. See the previous verse. not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, subjective in nature, involving will and thought; not. The verb combined with the negative particle indicates a strong command to stop a practice in progress. The angel immediately sought to allay the shepherd's natural fear and provide assurance that a heavenly visitation did not mean judgment.
For: Grk. gar, conj., in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." behold: Grk. idou, aor. mid. imp. of eidon, the inflected aorist form of horaō ("to see") and functions as a demonstrative particle. In communities accustomed to oral communication, idou would serve to nuance a narrative reduced to writing, especially to focus on exceptional moments in the narrative (Danker). Thus Luke uses idou 36 times in the Gospel to alert the reader to the next scene. Here the particle heightens the dramatic effect of the announcement by considering the impact on those hearing the heavenly messenger.
I bring good news: Grk. euangelizō, pres. mid., to announce or bring good news, such as a military victory. The angel has information that spells good tidings to the recipient. to you: The angel first emphasizes the personal impact. It's as if the angel says, "Regardless of what others think about you, God thinks highly of you and this good news is for you personally." of great: Grk. megas, adj. joy: Grk. chara, joy as an emotional response because of sharing in a celebration. The adjective "great" implies there will be no end to the joy. which will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 4 above. to all: Grk. pas, adj. the people: Grk. laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically and in Scripture often viewed in contrast with the ruling class. The term corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'aretz, "people of the land," i.e., all the people of Israel.
11 for a Savior has been born to you today in the city of David, who is Messiah the Lord.
for: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The fourth usage applies here. a Savior: Grk. sōtēr, one who liberates from real or threatening harm or loss, savior, deliverer, or benefactor. In the LXX sōtēr renders the Heb. yeshu'ah (SH-3444), salvation, deliverance (first in Deut 32:15), Heb. yesha (SH-3468), salvation (2Sam 22:47), and the participle moshia of the verb yasha (SH-3467), to save, deliver (Jdg 3:9) (DNTT 3:217). In the Tanakh sōtēr also appears to be a technical term for the judge-deliverers (Jdg 3:9, 15; Neh 9:8).
Above all sōtēr is applied to the God of Israel. Often the LXX speaks concretely of "God my Savior" (Ps 25:6; 27:1, 9; 62:2, 6; Isa 12:2) and "God our Savior" (Ps 65:5; 79:9; 95:1), whereas the MT speaks of "God of my salvation." God, as Savior, delivers from things outward, such as enemies (Ex 14:30; 1Sam 4:3; 2Sam 3:18), and things inward, such as sin (Ezek 36:29). He delivers people who are contrite and humble (Ps 34:19). In the apostolic narratives sōtēr first occurs at Luke 1:47 (see the note there), where Miriam refers to the God of Israel as her Savior, but here refers to Yeshua as the deliverer anticipated by Israel. Thus the Besekh, which uses the word sōtēr 24 times and the related verb sōzō ("save") 44 times, builds on the foundation already established in the Tanakh.
has been born: Grk. tiktō, aor. pass. See verse 6 above. to you: This event occurred for the shepherds, as well as everyone else in Israel. today: Grk. sēmeron, adv., today. The time reference could allude to the commencement of the Jewish day at sunset (night had fallen in verse 8), but more likely the term alludes to the daylight hours that had ended. I propose that "today" was September 10, 3 BC on the Julian calendar or Tishri 1, 3759, on the Hebrew calendar. (See the Hebrew-Roman Calendar here.) This date is significant for several reasons. First, Israelite kings normally began their reigns on Tishri 1 (Geldenhuys 134; Steinmann). Yeshua was King of the Jews; thus Yeshua's reign began when he was born.
Second, a significant astronomical event occurred in the heavens that night signaling the birth of the Messiah: Jupiter (planet of kings and the Messiah) joined Regulus, chief star in Leo, Royal Planet and Royal Star; the Sun was in Virgo (Virgin Constellation), and the new moon was in the Royal Constellation Leo (Judah). Pertinent to the date is that Revelation 12:1-2 depicts the birth of the Messiah when the sun and moon were in Virgo (Setterfield, The Christmas Star, Technical Notes). Nothing of this magnitude occurred in 6—4 BC, the traditional date given by commentators for the nativity. Third, Tishri 1 was Rosh Chodesh, New Moon, which began each lunar month on the Hebrew calendar. Rosh Chodesh symbolizes renewal and restoration. Just as the moon wanes and disappears at the end of the month, but returns and waxes again to fullness, so Jews began each month with the hope of the coming of the Messiah who would restore the glory of God to the earth.
Fourth, Tishri 1 was celebrated as Yom Teru’ah ("Day of Shouting"), commonly known as the Feast of Trumpets (Lev 23:23-25; Num 29:1-6). The Heb. word teru'ah does not mean "trumpet," but a vocal shout or blast of war, alarm or joy. Verse 13 below describes the vocal praise of angels celebrating the birth of the Messiah King. Fifth, by Torah instruction, Yom Teru'ah begins a ten day period of sincere humbling and repentance to prepare for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) on Tishri 10. The ten days was known as the "Days of Awe." The testimony of the shepherds in verse 20 would imply a call to repentance as Yochanan the Immerser would later do to prepare the way for Yeshua. The month of Tishri signifies that Yeshua was born to becoming an atoning sacrifice.
Sixth, Yom Kippur is followed by Sukkot on Tishri 15, a festival in which Jews dwelled in booths or tents for seven days as a reminder of their dependence on God and His gracious providence toward the people of Israel (Lev 23:42-43). (See my comment on Yeshua's attendance at Sukkot in John 7.) This festival, coming as it were on the heels of Yeshua's birth, aptly symbolized Yeshua coming to dwell among his people as declared in John 1:14 that "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us" (TLV).
in the city: Grk. polis. See verse 3 above. of David: See verse 4 above. who is Messiah: Grk. Christos ("Christ") translates the Heb. title Mashiach, which means ‘anointed’ and refers to one who has been consecrated to office (BDB 603). Mashiach is used primarily in the Tanakh for three men: the High Priest, Lev 4:5; the King of Israel, 1Sam 12:3; 2Sam 22:51; and the Messianic Prince-King, Ps 2:2 and Dan 9:25-26. Christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no sacral connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Christos translates Mashiach in the LXX, so the apostles did not coin the term.
Jews eagerly anticipated the coming of the Messiah to deliver them from their enemies, establish His kingdom on the earth and fulfill the covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Luke 1:69-75). Yeshua fulfilled all the Jewish expectations, being the great high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:10), the King of the Jews and Israel (Matt 2:2; 27:11; Luke 23:38; Rev 19:16) and the heavenly deliverer-savior of Israel (Luke 2:11; Acts 13:23; Phil 3:20). The title Christos, with its depth and breadth of meaning, constantly points to its Jewish context, though little recognized by Christians. For an expanded discussion on the Jewish title and Jewish expectations of the Messiah see my commentary on Mark 1:1.
the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 9 above. The principal title used for Yeshua in the Besekh is "Lord." In the apostolic narratives Yeshua is referred to as "Lord" by his disciples and others four times more than any other title. The angels announced that the Messiah would be kurios. The syntax is curious, but not accidental. It could be a play on words in the sense that just as the Creator God is Lord (capital "L") over all the universe, so Yeshua the Messiah will be lord (lower case "l") over the nation of Israel. Yet, the reference must hint that Yeshua is YHVH, the God revealed to Moses, indwelling human flesh.
12 And the sign to you is this: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger."
And the sign: Grk. sēmeion means sign, miracle or wonder. Sēmeion is used in a similar sense in the apostolic narratives to attest the authority of Yeshua and validate His divinity (Matt 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8; John 2:11, 18; 4:54; 6:14; 12:18; 20:30f). The corresponding Heb. word oth referred to signs, omens or miracles promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events or as pledges or attestations of divine presence and intervention in the affairs of men (BDB 16). In a city crowded with pilgrims there for the census the shepherds would need a sign to identify the incarnate babe. You will find: Grk. heuriskō, fut., to come upon by seeking; find, discover. an infant: Grk. brephos may refer to either an unborn offspring or a newborn baby or a very young infant.
wrapped in strips of cloths: Grk. sparganoō. See verse 7 above. and lying: Grk. keimai, pres. mid. part., may mean (1) be in a set position, used of a person in a recumbent position or an object resting on a surface; or (2) metaphorically to be set in a position by God's intent. The first meaning applies here. in a manger: Grk. phatnē. See verse 7 above. The fact of "lying in" suggests a specific item in the enclosure, a feeding trough or crib. The would likely not be many such enclosures in Bethlehem. The combination of a newborn baby's wrappings and the use of the manger for a crib would be a distinctive "sign" (Liefeld).
13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
And suddenly: Grk. exaiphnēs, adv., suddenly or at once, a word that often describes the unexpected nature of God's sovereign intervention in the affairs of men, especially the eschatological events (Mark 12:36; Acts 2:2; 9:3; 1Th 5:3). there appeared: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid., to come into being, to come to pass. with the angel: Grk. angelos. See verse 9 above. a multitude: Grk. plēthos, a relative large number of any kind, multitude or crowd. The angels were likely high up in the air. of the heavenly: Grk. ouranois, adj. relating to a transcendent realm, heavenly, that is from heaven, the location of God.
host: Grk. stratia, a formation of entities on a large scale here collectively of celestial beings viewed as an army. Yeshua would later say that he had more than twelve legions of angels he could call upon (Matt 26:53). A Roman legion was 6,000 men. Even one legion could probably count as a "host" as far as the shepherds could see. praising: Grk. aineō, pres. part., to give recognition for extraordinary performance, to praise, to extol or celebrate. The verb is used in Jewish literature of only praise of God (BAG). God: Grk. theos, God or god; here the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24).
In the LXX theos primarily renders the general names of God: El, Eloah and Elohim, but also YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos. The noun occurs over 1300 times in the Besekh and is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The phrase "only true God" is a statement of character as well as existence (cf. Deut 4:39; 2Chr 15:3; Isa 45:6; Jer 10:10). The God of the Bible speaks the truth and the Scripture He inspired is the truth. The "only true God" is not a statement of monotheism that allows the God of the Bible to be the same deity of other religions under a different name. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination. All the angelic praise was directed to the sovereign God for His outworking of His plan of redemption.
and saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; lit. “says.” In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation.
14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill."
Glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45).
to God: Grk. theos. See the previous verse. "Glory to God" reflects Hebrew idiomatic language that someone deserves respect, attention and obedience and as an act of praise to acknowledge sovereignty. Because of His absolute holiness and the beauty of his appearance God is the only One truly worthy of honor. in the highest: Grk. hupsistos, neut. pl., is probably a euphemism for the third heaven, the location of God's throne (cf. 2Cor 12:2) and alludes to the fact that God dwells in unapproachable light (1Tim 6:16). and on: Grk. epi, prep.
earth: Grk. gē can mean (1) soil or earth receiving seed or the ground, (2) land as contrasted with the sea; (3) the earth in contrast to the heavens or heaven; or (4) the inhabited globe, people, humanity (BAG). The fourth meaning applies here. The LXX uses gē to translate the Heb. erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets has the same range of meaning as gē, but especially (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75). peace: Grk. eirēnē (for Heb. shalom, completeness, soundness, welfare, or peace) is a relational word that may mean (1) a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostility or a peaceful condition that focuses on mutual acceptance in personal relationships; or (2) a state of well-being as used Hebraically in greetings. Shalom is a characteristic of the Messianic age and divine favor.
among: Grk. en, prep. See verse 6 above. men: Grk. anthrōpos, masc. pl., human being, man or mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27; 2:5; 1Sam 15:29); (2) ish, SH-376, an adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24; Job 1:1) and (3) enosh, SH-582, a man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Job 5:17; Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). Collectively the plural noun could be translated as 'people' or 'mankind.'
of good will: Grk. eudokia, consideration of what is good and therefore worthy of choice and may be translated as decision, intention or good will. The term probably refers to people who the recipients of God's good will (Danker 153). The angels are not offering a wish prayer that all men on earth would get along. Rather, God, in Yeshua, is offering his peace and grace. Stern says, "People of good will are people whom the will of God favors and whose own wills desire what God wills. The latter is itself a consequence of God’s favor."
Witness of the Shepherds, 2:15-20
15 And it came to pass as the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds were saying to one another, "We should go indeed as far as Bethlehem and we might see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."
And: Grk. kai, conj. it came to pass: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 1 above. as: Grk. hōs, adv. that connects narrative components and used here in a temporal sense; as, when, after. The phrase "And it came to pass," is a common Hebraic idiom in Luke's account. the angels: Grk. angelos, masc. pl. See verse 9 above. departed: Grk. aperchomai, aor., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of a destination, to go away, depart or leave. In verse 13 the sky was filled with a multitude of angels, no doubt an awesome spectacle. Now they simply disappeared from sight. from: Grk. apo, prep. generally used to denote separation, but here indicates a place of origin; from. them into: Grk. eis, prep.
heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, planets and associated phenomena. In the LXX ouranos translates Heb. hashamayim ("the heavens"), which is normally translated as singular (DNTT 2:191). The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to at least three different places (Ps 148:1–4). The first heaven is the atmosphere in which birds fly (Gen 1:20; 1Kgs 21:24; Rev 19:17) and from which comes precipitation, lightning and thunder (Gen 8:2; Deut 11:11; 33:13; Job 38:29; Matt 6:26). The second heaven is interstellar space populated with planets and stars (Gen 1:14–19; Ps 19:1–6). The third heaven is the abode of God the Father and the home of angels (Job 16:19; Ps 2:4; 11:4; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2–4). Here the third heaven is in view.
the shepherds: Grk. poimēn, masc. pl. See verse 8 above. were saying: Grk. laleō, impf., to make an vocal utterance and in the Besekh always to exercise the faculty of speech; address, declare, reveal, say, speak, talk about, utter (Mounce). to one another: Grk. allēlōn, reciprocal pronoun; each other, one another. The shepherds wasted no time. They gathered together facing one another and began to discuss how to respond. We should go: Grk. dierchomai, aor. subj., 1p-pl., to move within an area from one area to another, to go through or to come. indeed: Grk. dē, disjunctive particle; so, then, indeed, truly. HELPS notes that the particle is often not even translated even though it dramatically gives precision and emphasis to a statement. as far as: Grk. heōs, adv. marking a limit; as far as, up to, even to.
Bethlehem: Grk. Bēthleem. See verse 4 above. Bethlehem was no doubt within a reasonable distance, and the shepherds were not going to wander all over the region in their search. and we might see: Grk. horaō, aor. subj., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience extraordinary mental or inward perception. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes its use or follows it; this, these. thing: Grk. rhēma, a communication consisting of words, often with the implication of importance or special significance. In the LXX rhēma occurs predominately in the Pentateuch and prophetic writings for the Heb. dabar, which means "word" or "thing." Thus, rhēma, standing for dabar, can mean both (a) a word or utterance as well as (b) a matter, event, or case in the sense of the result of things said or done (DNTT 3:1119f).
that has happened: Grk. ginomai, perf. part. which the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 9 above. The shepherds give proper credit to God as the originator of the angelic revelation. has made known: Grk. gnorizō, aor., to share information about something, to make known or inform about. to us: Perhaps the personal reference has an aspect of awe that God would give such a significant revelation to shepherds.
16 And they came, having hurried, and found both Miriam and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.
And they came: Grk. erchomai, aor., to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. having hurried: Grk. speudō, aor. pass., may mean (1) proceed with haste, of persons in rapid movement; or (2) cause to arrive earlier; hurry up. The first meaning applies here. and found: Grk. aneuriskō, aor., come upon by looking here and there; locate, found. both: Grk. te, conj. used to connect an idea closely to another, used here in combination with kai that follows; thus "both." Miriam: See verse 5 above. and Joseph: See verse 4 above. and the baby: Grk. brephos. See verse 12 above. lying: Grk. keimai, pres. pass. part. See verse 12 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the manger: Grk. phatnē. See verse 7 above.
The shepherds fulfilled their heavenly commission and hurried to Bethlehem to locate the newborn babe. After a diligent search the shepherds found the child as the angels had said. The holy family must have been surprised by the visitors, but the experience and visitation of the shepherds would become part of Miriam's narrative on which Luke relied. We could imagine a period of excited discussion, a number of questions being asked and the joyful parents sharing their story.
17 Moreover having seen, they made known concerning the word having been spoken to them concerning this child.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. having seen: Grk. horaō, aor. part. See verse 15 above. The meeting may well have been brief. The shepherds stayed long enough to satisfy their curiosity. they made known: Grk. gnōrizō, aor., may mean (1) to share information about something; make known, inform about; or (2) come to a decision about a matter; know. The first meaning applies here and the aorist tense points to a completed activity. The shepherds became the first witnesses of the good news that a Savior had been born. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. the word: Grk. rhēma. See verse 8 above. having been spoken: Grk. laleō, aor. pass. part. See verse 15 above. to them: Grk. autos, masc. pl.
concerning: Grk. peri. this child: Grk. paidion, a child of indeterminate age from new-born to youth, normally pre-puberty. The allusion to the information received by the shepherds may well have included information from Joseph and Miriam, as well as the angels. Their testimony reflects the words of Psalm 40:
"I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation." (Ps 40:10)
concerning this child: Grk. paidion, a child of indeterminate age from new-born to youth, normally pre-puberty. The shepherds had quite a story to tell. Now would begin a period of hopeful waiting to see how events developed. It's reasonable to suppose that some of the shepherds lived long enough to witness the adult ministry of Yeshua.
18 And all the ones having heard marveled concerning the things having been spoken by the shepherds to them.
And: Grk. kai, conj. all: Grk. pas, masc. pl., adj. the ones: Grk. ho, masc. pl., definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having heard: Grk. akouō, aor. part., may mean (1) to hear, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said; (2) hear with comprehension, understand; or (3) receive information aurally, hear, hear about. The first two meanings have relevance in this context. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). marveled: Grk. thaumazō, aor., to be extraordinarily impressed; amazed, astonished, marveled, surprised, wondered at. concerning: Grk. peri, prep.
the things: Grk. ho, neut. pl. having been spoken: Grk. laleō, aor. pass. part. See verse 15 above. by: Grk. hupo, prep. denoting position, lit. "under," but used here to express agency. the shepherds: Grk. poimēn, masc. pl. See verse 8 above. to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110). Since the pronoun following is in the accusative case, pros would denote direction; to, toward. them: Grk. autos, masc. pl., personal pronoun. With multiple witnesses there didn't seem to be any unbelief among those who heard. They probably wished they had been there to share it. They were excited about the messianic message and may well have gone to pay their respects to the new family.
19 But Miriam was treasuring all these things, pondering in her heart.
But: Grk. de, conj. Miriam: See verse 5 above. was treasuring: Grk. suntēreō, impf., may mean (1) keep safe from damage or loss; preserve, guard, keep safe; or (2) be careful about retaining information; keep in mind, treasure. The second meaning applies here. "Treasuring" implies replaying the memory of all that had happened and this would have the effect of preserving the history for later sharing. all: Grk. pas, neut. pl., adj. these: Grk. houtos, neut. pl., demonstrative pronoun. things: Grk. rhēma, neut. pl. See verse 15 above. pondering: Grk. sumballō, pres. part., the basic idea of 'cast in with' or 'cast together' and dependent on context may mean (1) engage, in combative fashion; (2) take up matters of mutual interest; (3) give thought to a medley of matters; or (4) fall in with. The third meaning applies here.
in: Grk. en, prep. her heart: Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation vital to physical being, but used here metaphorically of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia renders Heb. lebab (SH-3824, first in Gen 20:5), inner man or soul, comprehending mind, affections and will (DNTT 2:181). In contrast to the shepherds Miriam apparently didn’t talk much about her experience. She was a woman of discretion. One can easily imagine that Miriam's thoughts would return repeatedly to the events of her son's birth and probably wonder how it would all turn out.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all which they heard and seen, just as it was said to them.
And: Grk. kai, conj. the shepherds: Grk. poimēn, masc. pl. See verse 8 above. returned: Grk. hupostrephō, aor., to go back to a position, to return. The shepherds headed back to their job in the fields. glorifying: Grk. doxazō, pres. part., (from doxa, "glory"), enhance esteem or reputation through word (of praise) or action to honor. In the LXX doxazō renders Heb. navah (SH–5115), to beautify, adorn with praises (Ex 15:2), but principally kabad (SH–3513), to be weighty, to be honored or praised (Lev 10:3; Ps 15:4). and praising: Grk. aineō, pres. part. See verse 13 above. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 13 above. for: Grk. epi, prep. The preposition expresses purpose here. all: Grk. pas, adj., neut. pl. which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun, neut. pl., used to specify or give significance to the mention of a person, thing or concept that precedes; who, which, what, that.
they heard: Grk. akouō, aor. See verse 18 above. The verb alludes to what had been heard from the angels. and seen: Grk. horaō, aor. See verse 15 above. just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. it was said: Grk. laleō, aor. pass. See verse 15 above. to them: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, masc. pl. The ebullient attitude of the shepherds reflects a perspective that the future was bright with promise. The praise of the shepherds may echo the joy expressed by the shepherd David: "Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You. Let those who love Your salvation continually say: 'ADONAI be magnified!'" (Ps 40:16 TLV).
21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcising of him, his name was also called Yeshua, having been called by the angel before he was to be conceived in the womb.
And: Grk. kai, conj. when: Grk. hote, temporal adv., when, at which time. eight: Grk. oktō, adj., fem. pl., the numeral eight. days: Grk. hēmera, fem. pl. See verse 1 above. The eighth day from birth with the day of birth counted as day 1. were completed: Grk. pimplēmi, aor. pass. See verse 6 above. for the circumcising: Grk. peritemnō, aor. inf., the act of surgically removing the male foreskin by a knife. of him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Circumcision is commanded by God to be performed on this day (Lev 12:3). The significance of the time is not stated in Scripture but modern medical researchers discovered that the two main blood clotting factors, Vitamin K and Prothrombim, reach their highest level in life, about 110% of normal, on the 8th day after birth. These blood clotting agents facilitate rapid healing and greatly reduce the chance of infection. Any circumcision done earlier requires an injection of Vitamin K supplement.
By custom the infant's father (Heb. avi haben) is responsible to perform the commanded circumcision (Gen 17:23; 21:4). However, due to the natural reticence of fathers to carry out this duty the office of mohel (circumciser) developed. The mohel was (and is) specially trained in circumcision and the rituals surrounding the procedure. The mohel might be a doctor or rabbi. Circumcision was the sign of belonging to the seed of Abraham and the chosen people (Gen 17:10-14; Lev 12:3). Along with it came all the promises given to Abraham. Failure to perform circumcision would result in being "cut off" from one's people (Gen 17:14). Rabbinic authority later determined that this restriction only applied to those serving as priests and did not disqualify one from being considered Jewish (Sanh. 22b).
Nevertheless, the circumcision story is a small but important part of the total narrative that emphasizes the Jewishness of Yeshua. Although the requirement for circumcision was given to Abraham (Gen 17:11; Acts 7:28), the mention of circumcision in the Besekh refers to a religious service designed by Moses (Acts 15:1) called B'rit Milah ("covenant of circumcision"). The apparent purpose of turning a simple surgery into a religious rite with spiritual meaning was probably to emphasize God's desire for circumcision of the heart (Deut 10:16; 30:6). While the surgery itself was normally performed privately, the celebratory service with family and friends included certain b'rakhot (blessings) and the naming of the child.
his name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. was also: Grk. kai. The conjunction emphasizes that the naming occurred during the circumcision ceremony. called: Grk. kaleō, aor. pass. See verse 4 above. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, perhaps "yay-soos," is an attempt to replicate the pronunciation of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Iēsous does not translate the meaning of Yeshua, any more than "Jesus" does, and Luke does not explain the name's meaning as Matthew does (Matt 1:21). The Greek word ends with a sigma ("ς") because an ending with alpha ("α") would make the name feminine.
Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua, which means "YHVH is salvation" (BDB 221). Yeshua is also the masculine form of the Hebrew word yeshu‘ah, ("salvation") (Stern 4). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua? having been called: Grk. kaleō, aor. pass. part. by: Grk. hupo, prep. the angel: Grk. angelos. See verse 9 above. Gabriel had informed first Miriam (Luke 3:31) and then Joseph (Matt 1:21) that regardless of any naming convention followed in their clan her son's name has already been determined in Heaven.
before: Grk. pro, prep. used to indicate precedence or a time earlier than; ahead, before. he was to be conceived: Grk. sullambanō, aor. pass. inf., may mean (1) take possession of by capture, in a legal sense; (2) render aid in accomplishing a task, assist; or (3) by extension of a woman becoming pregnant. The Holy Spirit "captured" Miriam's body as the angel prophesied and "assisted" in accomplishing fertilization (Luke 1:35). in: Grk. en, prep. the womb: Grk. koilia may mean either (1) belly, stomach; or (2) womb as it does here.
Date: October 3 B.C.
Presentation and Purification, 2:22-24
22 And when the days of their purification were completed according to the Torah of Moses, they brought him to Jerusalem to present to the Lord.
And: Grk. kai, conj. when: Grk. hote, adv. the days: Grk. hēmera, fem. pl. The Hebraic idiomatic expression stresses the counting of days as required by Torah. of their purification: Grk. katharismos, cleansing in a ritual sense. Geldenhuys says the word implies the removal of those things that interfere with communion with God (123). God had commanded that specific actions take place after the birth of a child, and Joseph and Miriam fulfilled their obligations. The first part of the verse alludes to the fact that Miriam was considered unclean after giving birth.
"When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. 3 On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed. 5 But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean for two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall remain in the blood of her purification for sixty-six days." (Lev 12:2-5 NASB)
The law is straightforward. The uncleanness of giving birth is comparable to the uncleanness of menstruation in that the husband and wife could not have intimate relations and she was unable to visit the sanctuary. She was not even allowed to enter the Court of the Gentiles (Jeremias 373). On the eighth day when the boy had to be circumcised she remained unclean in herself, though she would no longer pollute other people (Wenham 186). The adjective "their" does not mean that Joseph had become unclean, but that they shared the responsibility for satisfying the Torah instruction and could not engage in intimate relations until the Torah requirement was satisfied. were completed: Grk. pimplēmi, aor. pass. See verse 6 above.
according to: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning is "down," but with the accusative case of the noun following it is translated as "according to" denoting conformity to a standard (Thayer). the Torah: Grk. nomos may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. In the LXX nomos translates torah, but in the Tanakh torah not only refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Israel through Moses, but also customs or manners of man, e.g. direction given by priests (Deut 24:8; 33:10). Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God.
In the Besekh nomos can refer to (1) specific commandments given to Israel (Matt 12:5; Luke 2:22; John 8:5), (2) that plus the entire Pentateuch (John 1:45), (3) that plus the Prophets (Matt 5:17; John 1:45; 1Cor 14:21), (4) that plus the Writings (Luke 24:24; John 10:34), (5) as a synonym for Scripture (Matt 5:18; Luke 16:17; John 12:34; 15:25), and (6) universal principles derived from Scripture (Matt 22:36-40; 23:23). In the apostolic narratives nomos refers primarily to the written words of Moses, but sometimes it is used to mean religious instruction of the sages (John 7:49; Acts 22:3) or laws and regulations enacted by Jewish authorities (e.g., John 8:17; 19:7; Acts 18:15; 23:29; 25:8). Luke identifies the source of the law or rule applicable to this situation.
of Moses: Grk. Mōusēs, which transliterates the Heb. Moshe ("drawn out of the water"). Moses was the son of Amram and Jochebed, who was Amram's aunt (Ex 6:20). Moses was the leader of the Israelites in their deliverance from Egyptian slavery and oppression and their journey through the wilderness with its many threats to the nation's survival. At Mount Sinai Moses served as mediator to facilitate the beginning of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Forty years later on the plains of Moab Moses renewed the covenant with Israel and made preparations for their entry into the promised land. Moses died at the age of 120 and God buried him in the land of Moab (Deut 34:6). However, Moses' death was not the end of his importance or influence, because Scripture asserts that Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (Ex 24:4; Deut 31:9; Mark 12:19; Luke 24:27, 44; Acts 15:21; Rom 10:5) and left Israel with the rich legacy of God's Word. Moses was a giant of a man. (See also my web article Moses and Yeshua.)
The genitive case of "Moses" is treated by many interpreters as the originator of the Torah, as if he invented all the commandments. Historically, Christian theologians have resorted to this attribution in order to pit Moses against Yeshua who supposedly nullified the Torah and freed Jews and Gentiles from the oppression of Moses. This prejudicial view ignores the fact that frequently in the Pentateuch we hear God's voice speaking to give authority to the instruction, often with such phrases as "I am YHVH," "thus says YHVH," or "YHVH spoke to Moses." And, who is YHVH? (See John 8:58 for the answer). Yeshua also added that he did not come to annul the Torah (Matt 5:17-19). Since Yeshua as YHVH gave the Torah at Sinai and Moab how could he later cancel those commandments as if they meant nothing? (See my web article Under the Law.)
The fact that Yeshua superseded the Torah provision for a high priest and atonement sacrifice does not mean that God's standards for a holy and righteous people changed. The principal characters of the nativity story - Zechariah, Elizabeth, Miriam and Joseph - are identified as "righteous" because they lived by the Torah. Joseph and Miriam are taking action in this story out of obedience. Such are models of godly behavior that all true disciples of Yeshua should emulate.
they brought: Grk. anagō, aor., to conduct from a lower place to a higher, to lead or bring up. The verb alludes to going from a lower elevation to a higher elevation. him to Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim, which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). The city is situated some 2500 feet above sea level and eighteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, is renowned as the capital of all Israel, afterwards of the Kingdom of Judah and the seat of central worship in the temple. At the time of the Exodus the city was inhabited by the Jebusites (Josh 15:8), but then captured by the tribe of Judah (Jdg 1:8). The city was also known as the City of David (2Sam 5:7).
By the end of David's reign the city had expanded to cover seven mountains: Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath (Neil 289). Jeremias estimated the resident population of the city in the time of Yeshua at about twenty–five to thirty thousand (252). For the faithful Jew the city of Jerusalem represented all that was dear in the covenant relationship with God. David spoke of Jerusalem "as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord" (Ps 122:3–4 ESV). Another psalmist expressed his affection thus, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Ps 137:5–6 NASB).
to present: Grk. paristēmi, aor. inf., to place beside, to present, so as to be in the presence of another. to the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 9 above. The mention of "Lord" here represents God as a property owner. The temple in Jerusalem was the place God dwelled among His people. The actual presentation would be made to a priest acting as God's agent. The reason for the baby Yeshua being brought to the temple is explained in the next verse. Once thirty days had elapsed the parents brought Yeshua to the Temple, perhaps on October 20 (Heshvan 11).
23 Just as it is written in the Torah of the Lord that, "Every male opening the womb will be called holy to the Lord."
Just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe a document, with focus on the physical act of writing, as well as the expression of thought. The phrase "it is written" is the standard formula in the Besekh for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the Tanakh. Christian theologies have different theories of biblical inspiration but for authors of the Besekh it was a simple matter that God spoke and man wrote (e.g., Ex 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num 33:2; 36:5; Deut 30:10; 2 Pet 1:20-21). in the Torah: Grk. nomos. See the previous verse. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 9 above.
The phrase "law of the Lord" is a synonym for "law of Moses," and emphasizes the divine inspiration and instruction contained in the commandment that follows. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 11 above. The conjunction is used here to introduce the quotation. Every: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. The adjective doesn't leave any out. male: Grk. arsēn, male as distinguished from female. A number of versions insert "firstborn" before "male," but the Greek word for "firstborn" (prototokos, as in verse 7 above) does not occur in the Greek text. opening: Grk. dianoigō, pres. part., to open up, from dia ("through") and anoigō, "open." The verb graphically describes the movement of the fetus for birth. the womb: Grk. mētra, the womb, and in anatomical terms the uterus of a woman.
will be called: Grk. kaleō, fut. pass. See verse 4 above. holy: Grk. hagios has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as an adj. of things dedicated to God (e.g., the temple, Jerusalem), of persons consecrated to God (e.g., prophets), then of angels, of Messiah, and of God (Lev 19:2); (2) as a pure substantive in the neut. form hagion, used of the name of God (Luke 1:44), and then of what is set apart for God to be exclusively His, e.g., sacred places as the temple (Num 3:38; Matt 24:15), the holy land (2Macc 1:29; 2:18), Jerusalem (Matt 4:5), sacrifices (Lev 22:14; Rom 12:1), and angels (Zech 14:5; 1Th 3:13) and human persons (Isa 4:3; Acts 9:13). In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. to the Lord: Grk. kurios. To be holy is to be wholly His.
The commandment quoted in this verse does not occur as written anywhere in the Torah, although the intention of God for the firstborn to be sanctified to Him is clearly stated (Ex 13:2; 13:12; 22:29; Num 3:12; 8:17). God further stipulated that every firstborn male had to be redeemed.
"You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed." (Ex 34:20; also Ex 13:13; Num 18:15)
Joseph had the responsibility of redeeming his son and the price set for redemption was five shekels, "the shekel of the sanctuary" (Num 3:47; 18:16). If Joseph did not have shekels, then he would have to visit the money-changers at the temple first to change whatever currency he possessed and pay the assessed fee for making the change.
24 and to give an offering according to that having been said in the law of the Lord: "a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons."
and to give: Grk. didōmi, aor. inf., to give, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). an offering: Grk. thusia, an offering devoted to the Lord on His terms, always in reference to an animal victim presented for religious purposes. according to: Grk. kata, prep. that having been said: Grk. legō, perf. pass. part. See verse 13 above. The verb emphasizes that the instruction was spoken by God to Moses who wrote it down. in the law of the Lord: See the previous verse for this formula. a pair: Grk. zeugos, a pair, i.e. two, from the verb zeugnumi, "to yoke." of turtle doves: Grk. trugon, fem. pl., small pigeon, also called turtledove. or two young: pl. of Grk. nossos, masc. pl., nestling, the young of a bird, a chick. pigeons: Grk. peristera, fem. pl., a pigeon or dove. The species or variety cannot be further determined.
The offering, specified in the passage given below, would restore Miriam and Joseph to a clean status and enable them to resume conjugal relations. The selection of birds indicates the relative financial status of the couple.
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses saying, … "When the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of meeting a one year old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. 7 Then he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her, and she shall be cleansed from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, whether a male or a female. 8 `But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.'" (Lev 12:1, 6-8)
It may seem strange that a sin offering should be made since no woman violates a commandment merely by birthing a baby. However, the woman's uncleanness, as any uncleanness among the people, affected the sanctuary. The sin offering was presented to cleanse the sanctuary. After making the sin offering the priest kept the meat for himself (Lev 6:26; Ant. III, 9:3). Then, the burnt offering, totally consumed by fire, was brought to secure the forgiveness of sins and to express the mother's gratitude for the birth of her child and her renewed dedication to God (Wenham 187). The Torah does not explain why that should be so, and various theories have been advanced to explain the rule, but when God chooses not to explain something the only recourse for an Israelite is to obey. Failure to present the sacrificial offerings would result in being cut off from Israel.
Jeremias comments that among the chief priests at the Temple the director of the weekly course (Heb. rosh ha-mishmar) performed the rite of purification for women after child birth, who were pronounced clean at the Nicanor Gate when the rite was complete (164). The Nicanor Gate, standing east of the Holy Place, divided the Court of the Israelites (men only) from the Court of the Women (men and women). Women could stand at the southern side of the Gate and watch the sacrifices being made. The Torah requirement for a sin offering carried out in this narrative contains a certain irony. As a baby Yeshua could not be the sin offering for Miriam, but about 33 years later Yeshua would by the sacrifice of his own body put an end to all sin offerings.
Witness of Simeon, Luke 2:25-35
25 And behold there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And: Grk. kai, conj. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 10 above. there was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 4 above. a man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 14 above. By this clause Luke wants the reader to picture a very special man. in: Grk. en, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma. See verse 22 above. The fact that the man was in the city of Jerusalem didn't mean that he lived there. The Temple had quarters where priests on their tour of duty could sleep. whose: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 21 above. was Simeon: Grk. Sumeōn, which transliterates the Heb. name Shim'on ("heard"). The name Simeon is first used of a son of Jacob and Leah (Gen 29:33) and then three other men in the Besekh. No other biographical information is know about this Simeon.
and this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. man: Grk. anthrōpos. was righteous: Grk. dikaios, in accord with standards for acceptable behavior as prescribed by Torah, upright, just or righteous. and devout: Grk. eulabēs, reverent or devout. The term describes the outward response someone gives to what they feel is truly worthy of respect (HELPS). Given Simeon's presence in the temple, his character, his participation in consecrating the firstborn to God, blessing God for the child, and his receipt of divine revelation could suggest that he was a priest like Zechariah in the previous chapter. waiting: Grk. prosdechomai, pres. mid. part., look forward to in a receptive frame of mind, to wait for. for the consolation: Grk. paraklēsis, heartening in a time of trouble through word or demeanor, consolation or comfort.
of Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The name first appears in Genesis 32:28 where the heavenly being with whom Jacob struggled said, "From now on, you will no longer be called Ya'akov, but Isra'el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed" (CJB). The announcement, occurring before Jacob's reconciliation with his brother Esau, was prophetic because not until chapter 35 do we read that the name change was made permanent. Then God spoke to Jacob,
"Your name is Ya'akov, but you will be called Ya'akov no longer; your name will be Isra'el." Thus he named him Isra'el." God further said to him, "I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed a group of nations, will come from you; kings will be descended from you. Moreover, the land which I gave to Avraham and Yitz'chak I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you." (Gen 35:9-12 CJB)
The name of Israel was then given to the land God bequeathed to the descendants of Jacob (Gen 49:7) and used of the whole people regarded as one person (Num 24:5). The reader should note that Luke said "Israel" and not "Palestine." Contrary to the erroneous labeling on Christian Bible maps and usage by Christian commentators there was no Palestine in Bible times. There is no Palestine now and to use the term in any biblical context can only be described as antisemitic. (See my web article The Land is Not Palestine.) Although the Roman authorities did not recognize a political state of Israel, God still viewed the land and the people as Israel (cf. Matt 2:20-21; 10:23; Luke 4:27; 7:9).
and the Holy: Grk. hagios. See verse 23 above. Spirit: Grk. Pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. Pneuma is used for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a name or face of God. "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (pneuma ho theos, John 4:24), just as God is the Word (John 1:1). The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh.
The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh. The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Judg 3:10; and Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1). The Greek text of this verse does not have the definite article for either "Holy" or "Spirit," corresponding to the lack of the definite article in the three passages of Ruach Qodesh. was: Grk. eimi, impf. upon: Grk. epi, prep. him: The description of being "upon" (Grk. epi) Simeon is distinctive. Since the pronoun ("him") is in the accusative case then epi emphasizes motion or direction (DM 106). Thus, the Spirit came to Simeon and gave him a special anointing and spiritual insight beyond the average person.
26 and it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.
and: Grk. kai, conj. it was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 4 above. revealed: Grk. chrēmatizō, perf. pass. part., to impart a divine message, be revealed or prophesied. to him by: Grk. hupo, prep. the Holy Spirit: See the previous verse. This statement is in accord with Peter's comment that genuine prophecy is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). that he would: Grk. an, disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might. not: Grk. mē, negative particle. see: Grk. horaō, aor. inf. See verse 15 above. death: Grk. thanatos, death in the natural physical sense, extinction of life. The phrase "see death" is an Hebraic idiom that may function like a personification (cf. Ps 89:48; 1Cor 15:55) or as a reference to arriving at the day of one's death (cf. Gen 27:2).
before: Grk. prin, conj., at a point in time earlier than the moment of a specified event or activity; before. he had seen: Grk. horaō, aor. subj. the Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 11 above. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 9 above. Luke engages in a kind of word play with the postponement of seeing death on the one hand and anticipation of seeing the Messiah, the author of life, on the other.
27 And he came in the Spirit into the Temple also at the time the parents were to bring in the child Yeshua to do according to the thing having become accustomed of the Torah concerning him,
And: Grk. kai, conj. he came: Grk. erchomai, aor. See verse 16 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the Spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 25 above. The euphemism of being "in" the Spirit" occurs seven times in the Besekh. The presence of the definite article confirms that the Holy Spirit and not Simeon's spirit is intended. The phrase "in the Spirit" evokes wonder. In this context "in the Spirit" refers to the special inspiration and insight God gave to his prophets and apostles to understand divine mysteries (Matt 22:43; John 14:26; Eph 3:2-6; 1Tim 3:16). Also, "in the Spirit" refers to the spiritual character or condition that distinguishes the believer from the non-believer (Rom 2:29; 1Cor 6:17; Gal 6:1; Eph 5:18; Col 1:8).
The fact that Pentecost hadn't happened yet is irrelevant. The Holy Spirit manifests Himself to those who have dedicated themselves to God in a manner and time of His own choosing (1Cor 12:11; cf. John 3:8). Since the verb "came" begins the verse in the Greek text Marshall translates the preposition with "by," suggesting that the Holy Spirit directed Simeon in locating the holy family. The narrative supports the interpretation that this was a divine appointment. into: Grk. eis, prep. the Temple: Grk. hieron, sanctuary, temple (subst. neut. of the adj. hieros, 'sacred, holy'). When used of the temple in Jerusalem hieron applies to the entire temple complex with all its courts in contrast to naos, which refers to the sanctuary proper where priests offered sacrifices. For a description of the temple see my comment on Mark 11:11.
Simeon apparently came through the Nicanor Gate from the Court of the Israelites into the Court of the Women where Joseph and Miriam were standing. also: Grk. kai, conj. at the time: Grk. en, prep. the parents: Grk. goneus, masc. pl., begetter, father or ancestor, but the plural form refers to both parents. were to bring in: Grk. eisagō, aor. inf., to cause to enter into an area, to bring or lead in or into a place, here referring to the carrying the baby into the temple precincts. the child: Grk. paidion. See verse 17 above. Here the term refers to a new-born baby. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, the name given to the baby at his Brit Milah. See verse 21 above. to do: Grk. poieō, aor. inf., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here.
according to: Grk. kata, prep. the thing: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having become accustomed: Grk. ethizō, perf. pass. part. (from ethos, custom, rite), to conform to a custom or tradition, to accustom. This verb occurs only here in the Besekh. of the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 22 above. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The statement means that the parents were complying with a customary practice to fulfill the requirements mentioned in verses 22-24 above. And, it just so happened that when Joseph and Miriam came to the temple to perform their duty they met Simeon.
28 and he received him into the arms, and blessed God, and said,
And: Grk. kai, conj. he: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e. Simeon. received: Grk. dechomai, aor. mid., receive, frequently with the component of enthusiastic acceptance. The point is that Miriam willingly gave her baby over to Simeon. Him into: Grk. eis, prep. the arms: Grk. agkalē, fem. pl., the anatomical limb of the body, arm. Simeon cradled the baby with care and held him close. and blessed: Grk. eulogeō, to invoke divine favor or to express high praise, to bless; in this case the latter meaning. The corresponding Heb. verb is barak, which lit. means to kneel or to bless (BDB 138). In the Tanakh barak is an endowment of favor or beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser, either from God to man, from man to man or parent to child. However, the verb often occurs in the context of a man blessing God (e.g., Ps 103:1).
God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 13 above. The syntax implies that Simeon offered a b'rakhah or blessing distinct from the praise he declared in the following verses. The formula for blessings set forth in the Mishnah consisted of two parts, first the standard invocation, Barukh attah Adonai, ("Blessed are You LORD," quoting Psalm 119:12) (Ber. 1:4), followed by the reason for the invocation, "who [action verb]." In light of the next verse the unstated reason clause very likely would be "who has kept us alive and preserved us and brought us to this season" (Ber. 9:1). He might also have offered a blessing found in Scripture:
General: "Blessed be ADONAI, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and amen" (Ps 41:13 TLV).
For Salvation: "Blessed be Adonai, who day by day loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! (Ps 68:19 mine).
For Messiah: "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of ADONAI. We bless you from the House of ADONAI" (Ps 118:26 TLV).
and said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. The verb serves as quotation marks for the following declaration of verses 29-32.
29 "Now, Master, let your servant depart in peace, according to Your word,
Now: Grk. nun, adv. Master: Grk. despotēs, voc., master, lord, used of one who is especially recognized for superiority and claim on other persons, here used of God. let your servant: Grk. doulos may be translated as slave or servant. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 44, 47). In addition, ebed identified those that served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593ff). It's possible that in the context Simeon was a Levite or ordinary priest.
depart: Grk. apoluō, pres., may mean (1) to set free from a condition or obligation, to release or to free; or (2) to cause to depart from a place, to send off or dismiss. The verb likely has nuances of both meanings in the context. in: Grk. en, prep. peace: Grk. eirēnē. See verse 14 above. state of harmony, peace in the relational sense. according to: Grk. kata, prep. Your word: Grk. rhēma. See verse 15 above. Simeon appears to request permission to go back to his work or home, knowing that he is at peace with God by virtue of having accomplished the revelation in verse 26 above.
30 because my eyes have seen Your salvation,
because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 11 above. my eyes: Grk. ophthalmos, masc. pl., the sensory organ of the eyes. The plural form indicates no problem with Simeon's eyesight. have seen: Grk. horaō, aor., to apprehend and perceive with the eyes. Your salvation: Grk. sōtērios, God's beneficent favor in rescuing or bringing salvation, derived from sōtēr, 'one who liberates from real or threatening harm.' The context of this important theological term is the loss of freedom. "Whenever men by their own fault or through some superior power have come under the control of someone else, and have lost their freedom to implement their will and decisions, and when their own resources are inadequate to deal with that other power, they can regain their freedom only by the intervention of a third party" (DNTT 3:177).
That third party is the God of Israel and his agent to accomplish deliverance is the Messiah. In the context Simeon, as other Israelites, longed for deliverance from Roman oppression and restoration of Israel's national sovereignty (Acts 1:6). It's possible that Simeon's praise was a reaction to a simple request. "What's your baby's name?" Miriam said, "Yeshua." Simeon would know that the meaning of Yeshua's name is salvation.
31 which You have prepared before the face of all peoples:
which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. You have prepared: Grk. etoimazō, aor., to put in a state of readiness, to prepare. before: Grk. kata, prep. the face: Grk. prosōpon, that which forms the prominent identifying part of a person, the face, and idiomatically "in the sight of" members of a group. of all: Grk. pas, adj., masc. pl. See verse 3 above. peoples: Grk. laos, masc. pl., a group of humans; often used of people groups understood geographically or ethnically. Together the plural of both pas and laos convey the diversity of the description, an allusion to the 70 nations listed in Genesis 10. The Temple at which the purification and redemption ceremonies took place in a sense represented the world. Simeon's declaration is especially significant consider that the birth of Yeshua occurred on Tishri 1 (verse 11 above) and Sukkot (Feast of Booths, Tishri 15-22) had recently been completed during which 70 bulls were sacrificed to make atonement for the nations (Sukkah 55b).
Joseph and Miriam had to pass through the Court of the Nations to enter the Court of the Women. In the outer court people came from all over the world to pay their respects to the God of Israel and pray to Him (e.g. Matt 2:2; John 12:20). And, Israelites from all twelve tribes came to honor their God and present offerings to Him. Without realizing it Simeon alludes to the practice of hiding in plain sight (cf. 1Cor 2:8). The full revelation of God's plan of salvation would not come until after the resurrection of Yeshua. God entered the world through the back door, as it were, in plain sight and in the form of a babe. Yet, God revealed to Simeon that this child would be the Savior of Israel and the world.
32 a light for revelation of the nations and the glory of Your people Israel."
a light: Grk. phōs, that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium, light, here used metaphorically. for: Grk. eis, into. The preposition provides the word picture of light beginning as a sunrise and then increasing into fullness. revelation: Grk. apokalupsis, making fully known, uncovering, disclosure or revelation. In the LXX the noun is only found in 1 Samuel 20:30 for erva, nakedness and a further three times without Hebrew equivalent in Sirach 11:27; 22:22; 42:1 (DNTT III, 310). In Theodotion’s Greek version of Daniel the word is used several times of a divine disclosure through the prophet to the king of events that were destined to take place (Ladd 19). Apokalupsis occurs 18 times in the Besekh and refers to the disclosure of God's plan of redemption through Yeshua, a plan that will be consummated in great eschatological events announced in the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13) and then finally to John on Patmos.
of the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. Ethnos in the singular may refer generally to any people distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9), including Israel (Luke 23:2; Acts 24:2, 10; 28:19; 1Cor 10:18; Php 3:5), or to Jews of a specific locality and religious viewpoint, such as Samaria (Acts 8:9) or Judea (Acts 10:22; 24:17; 26:4). In the Besekh the plural form ethnos normally corresponds to the Heb. goyim, which in the Tanakh referred to all nations, including Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). From the Second temple onwards Jews generally used the plural of ethnos to refer to non-Jews. and the glory: Grk. doxa. See verse 9 above. The noun is used here of fame or honor, that which enhances the reputation. of Your people: Grk. laos. See the previous verse. Israel: Grk. Israēl. See verse 25 above.
God always wanted Jacob (Israel) to be a company of nations (Heb. qahal goyim, Gen 28:3). God's message of salvation was for the whole world and not just the Jews. However, God intended Israel to share the knowledge of the only true God and to bring the Gentiles to Him (Isa 2:3; 42:6; cf. John 10:16). In this matter Gentiles do not need to feel second-class because of God's choice, but should welcome identity with Israel as Ruth did, "Your people shall be my people" (Ruth 1:16). There is no Scriptural basis for replacement theology (God's rejection of Israel and substitution of the Church), which developed out of the anti-Jewish bias of the church fathers. Refusing to be identified with the Jewish people can only bring God's disapproval. See my commentary on Romans 11.
33 And his father and mother were marveling at the things having been spoken concerning him.
And: Grk. kai, conj. his father: Grk. patēr, may mean (1) a male parent, (2) a forefather once removed or more from the biological father, (3) one held in esteem for social position, personal excellence or spiritual connection, (4) in imagery of a parent whose progeny displays parental characteristics, or (5) in an extended sense of God as father. The third and fourth meanings can apply in this situation. So, Luke is not contradicting his own narrative of the virgin birth, because he clarifies the relationship in 3:23 with "as was supposed." Joseph was certainly Yeshua's legal father and so could be rightly identified by others as the father of the one born to Miriam (cf. Luke 2:48; John 6:42).
and mother: Grk. mētēr, properly a female birth parent, but also a woman who exercises the control, influence and authority of a mother (Rom 16:13) and fig. of a parent city (Gal 4:26; Rev 17:5). The fifth commandment specifically requires honor to be given to parents. were: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 4 above. marveling: Grk. thaumazō, pres. part. See verse 18 above. at: Grk. epi, lit. "upon." The preposition emphasizes mental reflection. the things: Grk. ho, neut. pl., definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having been spoken: Grk. laleō, pres. pass. part. See verse 15 above. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. him: Grk. autos; i.e. Yeshua. The verbs "marveling" and "being spoken" would also encompass Simeon's words in verses 34 and 35.
This verse indicates the totally unexpected nature of the prophetic message of Simeon, first the good news and then the bad news that follows this verse. The fact that both Joseph and Miriam were amazed at Simeon's words implies that even after the initial announcements of Gabriel and Elizabeth, the supernatural conception, and the visitation and report of the shepherds, they still did not fully appreciate the consequences of their role and the confusion and pain they would experience in the future. God bringing salvation to His people Israel would not be all joyful celebration. A price had to be paid.
34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Miriam, his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign spoken against,
And Simeon blessed: Grk. eulogeō. See verse 28 above. them: pl. of Grk. heautou, personal pronoun. In verse 28 Simeon had offered a blessing for enabling him to see the expected child, but now he offers a blessing to God for Joseph and Miriam. and said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. to Miriam: See verse 5 above. his mother: Grk. mētēr. See the previous verse. Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. of horaō. See verse 10 above. The interjection is employed to grab attention. this child: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, masc., lit. "this one." See verse 15 above. The pronoun could be translated as "he." is appointed: Grk. keimai, pres. mid. See verse 12 above. The verb is used here to mean set in a position by God and thus appointed or destined for something
for: Grk. eis, prep. the fall: Grk. ptosis, condition of falling, lit. of the fall or collapse of a house (BAG). The metaphoric use may intend a family, clan or dynasty. and rise: Grk. anastasis, bringing to a higher status. This is the same term used for resurrection of the dead. However, the intention here is probably similar to Hannah's prayer, "He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles" (1Sam 2:8). of many: Grk. polus, masc. pl., extensive in scope and the plural form here refers to numbers. in Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael. See verse 25 above. As predicted multitudes followed Yeshua during his adult ministry.
and for: Grk. eis. a sign: Grk. sēmeion means sign, miracle or wonder. Sēmeion is used in the apostolic narratives in reference to miracles to attest the authority of Yeshua and validate His divinity (Matt 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; 23:8; John 2:11, 18; 4:54; 6:14; 12:18; 20:30f). In the LXX sēmeion is predominately a translation of the Heb. word oth and like it means (a) sign, mark, token; (b) miraculous sign or miracle (DNTT 2:626). Signs are sometimes promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events or as pledges or attestations of divine presence and intervention in the affairs of men. Geldenhuys summarizes the meaning of sēmeion as "a phenomenon which cannot escape notice, of which cognizance must be taken, and through which something else is made known" (124).
The term "sign" has a variety of important uses in the Tanakh. The first usage is in Genesis 1:14 in which the stars would serve as signs that speak for God or even as portents of events on earth (cf. Ps 19:1f; Jer 10:2). "Sign" also referred to a visible manifestation of God’s grace and favor, as the rainbow, circumcision and the Sabbath are covenantal signs (Gen 9:12f, 17; 17:11; Ex 31:13, 17; Ezek 20:12). Most of the usages of "sign" in the Tanakh are related to miraculous wonders that only the Creator could perform, such as the plagues on Egypt (Ex 7:3) and the shadow’s advance on the palace steps (2Kgs 20:9). Sometimes a sign was a token that would serve as a warning or reminder, such as Aaron’s rod (Num 17:25) and the stones in the Jordan (Josh 4:6). These meanings frequently overlap and the use of the word "sign" may point backward to a historical event or even forward to the fulfillment of a promise (TWOT 1:18f).
Yeshua is not the first person in Scripture to be described as a sign. Isaiah declared that he and the two sons (Isa 7:3; 8:3) given to him by a prophetess "are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion" (Isa 8:18). The birth of the first son was a sign that God would preserve a faithful remnant in Israel and the second son was a sign that God would overthrow Syria and the northern Kingdom of Israel by Assyria. Ezekiel became a sign of the final defeat and exile of the Kingdom of Judah by the means of three symbolic actions: (1) preparing baggage for exile, 12:1-16; (2) eating with trembling, 12:17-28; and (3) abstaining from mourning upon the death of his wife, 24:15-27.
spoken against: Grk. antilegō, pres. pass. part., may mean (1) to speak in an adversarial manner; contradict, argue against, speak against; or (2) by extension take a position in opposition to; oppose, refuse. The second meaning applies here. Simeon succinctly states that opposition would arise against Yeshua, just as people opposed Moses (Num 21:5). Yeshua faced verbal ridicule and slander in public on a regular basis (e.g. Matt 12:24; Mark 2:7; Luke 15:2; John 7:15; 9:16; 18:30), but he persevered with his divine mission. During Yeshua's public ministry he was asked by his adversaries to produce a sign (Matt 16:1-4), not realizing that Yeshua himself was the sign sent from God.
35 and indeed of you. Of her a sword will go through the soul so that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed."
This verse seems to have two subjects, one that that Miriam herself will suffer and the thoughts of people will be revealed. A few versions reverse the order of the statements (CEB, NET, NIV, NRSV). In the Greek text the statement made directly to Miriam appears to be an interruption in the flow of prophecy and the other part of the verse is a purpose statement that follows as a consequence of the actions depicted in verse 34.
and: Grk. kai, conj. indeed: Grk. de, conj. See verse 1 above. of you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. The genitive case normally is translated with "of." The Greek syntax implies that this phrase actually concludes the previous verse. In other words, not only would Yeshua be spoken against, but also his mother. Unbelieving Jews would later slander Miriam as having become pregnant by a Roman soldier (see Sanh. 67a, fn 12). Eventually the Catholic Church would commit a type of defamation by making her a co-mediator (Mediatrix) with her son and one to whom prayers may be addressed. This heresy essentially rejects Miriam's Jewish identity. As a righteous Jewish woman Miriam would have been horrified at such idolatry.
Of her: Grk. autē, fem. of autos, genitive case. Simeon refers to Miriam in an indirect manner, i.e., "of her the mother of the Messiah." Many prophecies of the Messiah are spoken in this manner. a sword: Grk. rhomphaia refers to a long-bladed and heavy broadsword used by Thracians and other barbarous nations (Rienecker 2:468). The term occurs seven times in the Besekh, the other six being in the book of Revelation (1:16; 2:12, 16; 6:8; 19:15, 21). Ironically, this sword is wielded by Yeshua in five of the six references in Revelation. will go through: Grk. dierchomai, fut. mid., to move within an area or from one area to another, to go through.
the soul: Grk. psuchē, may mean (1) a quality without which a body is physically dead; life; (2) that which possesses vital being; person; or (3) that which is integral to being a person beyond mere physical function; life (inner) self, soul. In the LXX psuchē corresponds to Heb. nephesh (SH-5315). Nephesh is that which breathes air (Gen 1:20), and is in the blood (Lev 17:11; Deut 12:23). Nephesh also represents the inner self and the seat of desires, passions, appetites, and emotion. In Hebrew thought a person is a soul-body. Thus, "soul" does not refer to a non-physical part of a human being, but rather to the whole person. Human beings live as "souls;" they do not have souls (e.g., Acts 2:41; 7:14; 27:37; 1Pet 3:20).
Miriam will hear words and see events that will trouble her mind and heart. The piercing of Miriam's soul took various forms. The first event occurred in the Passover narrative in verses 48-50 below in which Miriam received a mild rebuke from her son when he was only 12 years of age. Second, at a wedding in Cana Miriam came to Yeshua to solve a shortage of wine, which in reality was not his problem. His rebuke, "Woman what does this have to do with you and Me? My hour hasn't come yet" (John 2:4), reminds Miriam that she no longer had authority over him and he would act as he deemed it appropriate.
Third, all three Synoptic Narratives record the incident in Capernaum early in Yeshua's Galilean ministry in which Miriam and brothers and sisters came to his place of teaching and attempted to take him home because he had "lost his senses" (Mark 3:21). When his family requested that he come out to them Yeshua asked, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" (Mark 3:32) On the surface this seems a strange response. The rhetorical question is not meant to show disrespect to his earthly family. As an observant Jew and the sinless Messiah he would certainly have fulfilled the commandment to honor his parents. Yet, in ignoring his mother's request he was communicating to his family that the nature of his mission and the kingdom required a shift in relationships. While Yeshua's question might be rhetorical, to Miriam the words would sting.
Fourth, an incident occurred in which a woman wanted to venerate Yeshua's mother:
"As Yeshua was saying these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice to call out, 'How blessed is the mother that gave birth to you and nursed you from her breast!' But he said, 'Far more blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!'" (Luke 11:27-28 CJB)
Yeshua's correction was a reminder of spiritual priorities. One's relationship with God is more important than one's earthly relationships, even with blood relatives. Whether Miriam learned of this incident cannot be known, but it's not unthinkable that the report of this conversation eventually reached Miriam's ears. While historically Jewish women hoped to be the mother of the Messiah, Yeshua's words would remind his mother that her willingness to be God's servant (Luke 1:38) did not elevate her to a special place of authority in the kingdom.
Fifth, Miriam would suffer her greatest trial during a future Passover time when Yeshua would be arrested, tried, convicted and crucified. It would have been an absolute horror for Miriam to see her firstborn son suffer and die in such a cruel manner. Nevertheless in his final hours Yeshua thought of his mother's needs and directed that the apostle John take her into his care (John 19:26-27). After the resurrection Miriam would understand the full meaning of her service to the kingdom and join the other disciples to await Pentecost (Acts 1:14).
so that: Grk. hopōs, adv., so that. This adverb is stronger than simple "that," because it emphasizes the method (qualities, prerequisites) involved to accomplish the objective (purpose) at hand (HELPS). the thoughts: Grk. dialogismos, masc. pl., the process of turning things over in one's mind in response to a problem or challenging event. of many: Grk. polus, fem. pl. See the previous verse. hearts: Grk. kardia, fem. pl. See verse 19 above. might: Grk. an, disjunctive particle. See verse 26 above. be revealed: Grk. apokaluptō, aor. pass. subj., to cause to be fully known, to reveal, disclose or make known. What only God sees will be made public.
Witness of Hannah, 2:36-38
36 And there was Hannah, a prophetess, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher, she being advanced in age, having lived with a husband seven years from her marriage.
And: Grk. kai, conj. there was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 4 above. Hannah: Grk. Hanna, which transliterates the Heb. Hannah ("grace"). She is identified with the Anglicized "Anna" in Christian versions. a daughter: Grk. thugatēr, may mean (1) daughter in an immediate sense, (2) a female descendant and (3) fig. of females in other than parent-daughter relationship. The first meaning applies here. of Phanuel: Grk. Phanouēl, which transliterates the Heb. name Penu-el ("face of God"). The Greek name is masculine, but Barker misidentifies Phanuel as a woman (282). Nothing more is known of him, but he must have been a clan leader for his name to be given. Not every woman mentioned in the Besekh is identified with the name of her father.
of the tribe: Grk. phulē, a grouping based more narrowly on blood kinship and is often used in Scripture to refer to the tribes of Israel. of Asher: Grk. Asēr, a transliteration of Heb. Asher, which means “happy one” (BDB 81). Asher was the eighth son of Jacob, born to his concubine-wife Zilpah (Gen 30:12f). Jacob’s deathbed prophecy concerning his sons promised good fortune to Asher, "As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties" (Gen 49:20 NASB). The Hebrew word for "rich" literally means olive oil and the territory of Asher has always been known for its vast olive groves. Even today most of the olive oil produced in Israel comes from fertile valleys in Asher's territory (Varner 67).
Jacob’s words are echoed and amplified in Moses blessing on Asher, "More blessed than sons is Asher, may he be favored by his brothers, and may he dip his foot in oil. Your locks will be iron and bronze, and according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be" (Deut 33:24-25 NASB). While in biblical history Asher may have excelled in agriculture, no judge, leader or military hero came from the tribe, which may explain why the tribe never cleansed their territory of Canaanites during the period of the Judges (Jdg 1:31f). Yet, the tribe of Asher survived invasions of the major empires so that on this occasion when Yeshua was dedicated at the temple, Hannah of the tribe of Asher was there to greet Him. See my web article The Twelve Tribes of Israel.
a prophetess: Grk. prophētis, the feminine counterpart to prophētēs, prophet. Prophets were highly regarded among the people of God and in the Body of Messiah held the second position of honor after the apostles (1Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11). Women, too, could be prophetesses and serve as God's messengers. Miriam, the sister of Moses (Ex 15:20), Deborah (Judg 4:4), Huldah (2Kgs 22:14), Noadiah (Neh 6:14), Isaiah's wife (Isa 8:3), and the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9) are classified as prophetesses. In 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul alludes to the practice of women prophesying in congregational gatherings and he clearly regarded women as equal partners in ministry (Rom 16:1-3; Php 4:3) as long as they showed respect for those in authority over them (1Cor 11:10; 1Tim 2:11; 1Pet 1-5).
she: Grk. autē, fem. personal pronoun. being advanced: Grk. probainō, perf. part., to move forward from a position, here an allusion to advancement of time from birth. in: Grk. en, prep. age: Grk. hēmera, fem. pl., lit. "days." See verse 1 above. Here the time reference refers to a long life. In the LXX the phrase "advanced in age" translates the Hebrew bo [to come or go] b'yamim [in days"] when speaking of Abraham and Sarah (Gen 18:11; 24:1) and King David (1Kgs 1:1). having lived: Grk. zaō, aor. part., to be in the state of being alive, to be possessed of vitality, to exercise the functions of life (Mounce). In the LXX zaō renders the Heb. adj. chay (SH-2416), alive, living, used for animal and human life (Gen 1:20; 3:20); the verb chayay (SH-2425), live, revive, save life (Gen 3:22; Ex 33:20); and the verb chayah (SH-2421), live, which appears often in texts describing how long someone lived (Gen 5:21) and in other passages as a reward of God for righteousness (Prov 4:4).
with: Grk. meta, prep., may be used as (1) a marker of association or accompaniment; 'amid,' among,' 'with,' or 'in company with'; or (2) a sequential or positional marker; after, behind. The first usage applies here. a husband: Grk. anēr (Heb. adam), an adult man without regard to marital status, but in this context one who has taken a woman as a wife. seven: Grk. hepta, the numeral seven. years: Grk. etos, neut. pl., a period of twelve months. The duration of Hannah's marriage is not presented with an sense of pity, but the short time frame would nonetheless be a tragedy. No mention is made of children.
37 and she a widow until eighty-four years, who never left the Temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.
and: Grk. kai, conj. she: Grk. autē. a widow: Grk. chēra, a woman bereft of her husband. until: Grk. heōs, prep., a temporal marker of limitation, here time, 'till' or 'until.' eighty: Grk. ogdoekonta, the number eighty. four: pl. of Grk. tessares, the number four. years: Grk. etos. See the previous verse. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. never: Grk. ou, adv., negative particle. left: Grk. aphistēmi, impf. mid., to withdraw oneself from a place, to depart, stay away or withdraw. the Temple: Grk. hieron. See verse 27 above. As a woman she would not have been able to go past the Court of the Women. Geldenhuys suggests that it is possible that Hannah was given a room in one of the buildings on the temple-hill to live in (121).
There were no doubt many widows in the land of Israel at this time, so only special circumstances can explain how she was able to spend so much time in the Temple. Perhaps she had been the wife of a priest. serving: Grk. latreuō, pres. part., to minister or serve the God of Israel in a strictly religious sense. night: Grk. nux, night as a chronological period, sunset to sunrise. and day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 1 above. Here the term means the time period from sunrise to sunset. As an Hebraic idiom "night and day" could refer simply to the passage of time, not necessarily a complete 24-hour period. Hannah served God during those time periods and the schedule was of her own making.
with fastings: Grk. nēsteia, fem. pl., the abstinence from food for a devotional purpose. Merely skipping a meal is not fasting. Sometimes Scripture simply refers to "eating no bread and drinking no water” (Ex 34:28; Ezra 10:6; cf. Luke 7:33; Acts 9:9). Obligatory fasts were part of Jewish religious life (Mark 2:18), so it's possible that "fastings" refers to the designated fasts of Jewish custom. The only fast-day prescribed by Torah is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:2-31; 23:26-32). Pharisees fasted at least two times per week (Luke 18:12), which in the time of Yeshua fell on the second day (Monday) and fifth day (Thursday) of the week. The fact that Hannah fasted with such regularity does not mean that she violated Rabbinic rules for the observance of fasts. A first century document called Megillat Ta'anit (Scroll of Fasts) lists 35 specific days on the calendar when fasting was prohibited because of being feast-days. See my web article Fasting in the Bible.
and prayers: Grk. deēsis, fem. pl., prayer, petition or entreaty, and in the Besekh always a request to God for meeting a need. The fastings were done in order to focus on prayer. While Hanna may have said the customary prayers associated with Jewish worship, the focus of her prayers were the needs of others. The following verse hints at the content of her prayers.
38 And she, having coming up at that hour, gave praise to God and spoke concerning him to all those waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
And: Grk. kai, conj. she: Grk. autē, fem. personal pronoun. having coming up: Grk. ephistēmi, aor. part., to approach, to come up, to stand by. at that hour: Grk. hōra, may mean (1) a short space of time, the twelfth part of a day; hour; (2) fig. for a period of time in the day; "the hour was already late;" or (3) fig. for a point of time as occasion for action or for an event; time. The third usage applies here. The noun with the definite article suggests a precise time. Hannah's entrance came immediately after Simeon had finished speaking and probably while he was still holding the baby. gave praise: Grk. anthomologeomai, impf. mid., make acknowledgement in turn; return thanks, thank, praise. The compound preposition in the verb indicates thanksgiving in return for benefits (Rienecker). God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 13 above.
and spoke: Grk. laleō, impf. See verse 15 above. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. him: Grk. autos, masc. personal pronoun; i.e., the child. to all: Grk. pas, adj., masc. pl. See verse 3 above. those: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun, masc. pl. waiting for: Grk. prosdechomai, pres. mid. part., to look forward in a receptive frame of mind, to wait for. the redemption: Grk. lutrōsis, liberation from a state of bondage or oppression, deliverance or redemption. of Jerusalem: See verse 22 above. The city may stand for the people, but it's possible that Hannah meant the city in a literal sense. The bondage was both political with the reign of the Herodian family and Roman tyranny, and spiritual with the corrupt priesthood in charge of the Temple.
Return to Nazareth, 2:39-40
39 When Joseph and Miriam had completed everything according to the Torah of the Lord, they returned to the Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.
And: Grk. kai, conj. when: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 15 above. they had completed: Grk. teleō, aor., to bring to completion in a manner that leaves nothing undone, to achieve fully, fulfill, accomplish, complete. everything: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 22 above. the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 22 above. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 9 above. they returned: Grk. epistrephō, aor., may mean (1) to go back to a point; go, come back, return; (2) turn about within a space; turn about, turn; or (3) to change one's mode of thinking or belief; turn about. The first meaning applies here. into: Grk. eis, prep. Galilee: Grk. Galilaia. See verse 4 above. to their: Grk. heautou, normally a reflexive pronoun in the third person, but used here in a possessive sense. city: Grk. polis. See verse 3 above. of Nazareth: Grk. Nazaret. See verse 4 above.
Luke stresses that as good and righteous Jews the couple accomplished the Torah requirements for Joseph to redeem Miriam's firstborn son and for Miriam to present a blood sacrifice to restore her clean status. With these commandments satisfied they had no reason to stay, so they returned home. With the birth on September 10, probably during Sukkot, and the presentation forty days later, the return to Nazareth would have occurred in late October. This verse is very important to clarify the chronology of the nativity story. The common interpretation is that the Magi came to Jerusalem (Matt 2) shortly after Yeshua was born. However, it's clear from Luke's narrative that the family only remained in the area for the forty days following the birth and then they returned to Nazareth. The visit of the Magi had to occur well after this time, because the holy family immediately fled to Egypt when the Magi departed. The divine appointment with the Magi in Bethlehem would have occurred in the winter of the next year, probably in December as some early traditions indicate.
Date: 1─10 A.D.
40 Now the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him.
Luke fast forwards in time to the upbringing of Yeshua in Nazareth. Now: Grk. de, conj. the child: Grk. paidion. See verse 17 above. It may seem odd that Luke repeatedly refers to Yeshua with terms that reflect first his baby-hood and then his childhood instead of his name, but such terminology does remind the reader that the human being Yeshua was a typical Jewish boy. The description of Yeshua's youth does not intend that he gained the following attributes by osmosis or that the divine nature asserted itself to develop them. Yeshua's characteristics developed in the normal way under the guidance of his parents. grew: Grk. auxanō, impf., to cause to become greater in extent or amount, to become greater in the sense of maturity, that is, he passed through the typical developmental stages of childhood.
and became strong: Grk. krataioō, impf. pass., to become strong, probably indicating his physical development. filled: Grk. plēroō, pres. pass. part., to cause to abound in content to the maximum or to bring to fruition or completion, to fill or to complete. with wisdom: Grk. sophia, exceptional endowment of discernment, understanding and insight. In Hebrew culture sophia always had a practical and ethical aspect and was acquired by education. In ancient Jewish culture education was centered in the home. A father had the most important responsibility for teaching his son. The Talmud said,
"The father is bound in respect of his son, to circumcise [Gen 21:4], redeem [Ex 13:13], teach him Torah [Deut 11:19], take a wife for him [Jer 29:6], and teach him a craft [Eccl 9:10]. Some say, to teach him to swim too, R. Judah said: He who does not teach his son a craft, teaches him brigandage [theft]." (Kidd. 29a)
From the rabbinic point of view teaching a child the Torah was probably the most important responsibility in the above list. This duty is emphasized many times in the Tanakh (Lev 10:11; Deut 4:9-10; 6:7, 20-25; 11:19; 31:19; 32:46; Ps 78:4-5; Prov 1:8; 3:1; 4:1-4; 6:20; 13:1). A child's education began very early. By rabbinic standards a father was to teach his child the Torah and the Shema as soon as he could speak (Sukk. 42a). Indeed the Mishnah stipulated that a child that was able to shake the lulab (the palm branch used during the Feast of Booths ceremonies) was obligated to do so, which implied teaching the child about the custom (Sukk. 3:13).
The Mishnah also specified that a child began learning Scripture (i.e., memorization) at age 5 and the Mishnah (Jewish law and customs) at age 10 (Ab. 5:21). The commencement of study at five years was based on the analogy of the newly planted tree, the fruit of which becomes available for general consumption in the fifth year (Lev 29:25). Traditionally the five year old Jewish boy would begin his study with Leviticus. The Midrash quotes God as saying, "Since the children are pure, and the sacrifices are pure let the pure come and occupy themselves with things that are pure" (Lev. R. vii. 3, quoted by Jeffrey Feinberg, Walk Leviticus, p. 13).
and the grace: Grk. charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity; also, a benefit conferred freely as an expression of good will. Charis can represent the Heb. word chesed, God's covenantal faithfulness. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 13 above. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. him: All of God's promises of the Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant rested on Yeshua for their fulfillment. The great promise made to Abraham would be completed in the life, death and resurrection of Yeshua.
Date: April, A.D. 11
Passover in Jerusalem, Luke 2:41-50
41 And his parents traveled yearly to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover.
And: Grk. kai, conj. his parents: Grk. goneus, masc. pl. See verse 27 above. traveled: Grk. poreuomai, impf., may mean (1) to move from one area to another; to go or to make one's way, journey, travel; or (2) in an ethical sense, to conduct oneself, live, walk. In the LXX poreuomai renders mainly Heb. halak (SH-1980), to go, come, walk, first occurring in Genesis 3:14 (DNTT 3:946). yearly: Grk. kat etos, lit. "according to the year." The phrase alludes to an obligation to be fulfilled each year. to: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: See verse 22 above. for the festival: Grk. heortē, a religious festival and in the Besekh used of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Booths. In the LXX heortē renders Heb. chag, feast, festival-gathering, pilgrim feast or festival sacrifice (BDB 290).
of Passover: Grk. pascha, the Passover. In the LXX pascha renders Heb. pesakh (derived from a verb pasach meaning to pass or spring over, BDB 820). The term is used in Scripture, both the Tanakh and Besekh, to refer to (1) the Israelite festival, Nisan 14-21, celebrating liberation from Egypt; (2) the sacrificial lamb killed on Nisan 14 to begin the celebration; (3) the special communion-meal at sunset Nisan 14 (Lev 23:5), which is the beginning of Nisan 15; and (4) the festival sacrifices (Heb. chagigah) of lambs and bulls on Nisan 15-21 (cf. Num 28:16-25; Deut 16:1-3; 2Chr 30:24; 35:8-9). The detailed instructions for observing Passover may be found in the Talmud Tractate Pesachim and the instructions for festival sacrifices are found in Tractate Hagigah.
The Passover has been celebrated by Jews since God commanded the observance and gave instructions to Moses (Ex 12:1—13:16). The first Passover was the means of deliverance from a plague of death on the firstborn. Thereafter, Passover would celebrate God’s great work of redemption (Ex 23:14-15; Lev 23:4-8; Num 28:16-25; Deut 16:1-8). The Passover deliverance made salvation distinctly national in scope and truly set Israel apart as a special people. Slaves and resident aliens (Gentiles) were allowed to share the meal as long as they were circumcised (Ex 12:48). This simple provision demonstrated that God’s plan of salvation for Gentiles has always been based on inclusion in Israel (cf. Eph 2:11-13).
God expressly commanded the Israelites to celebrate the feast of Passover annually in perpetuity, that is, forever (Ex 12:14). Failing to observe Passover would be a sin (Num 9:13). Josephus summarized the schedule and reason for the continued observance:
"In the month of Xanthicus, which is by us called Nisan, and is the beginning of our year, on the fourteenth day of the lunar month, when the sun is in Aries, (for in this month it was that we were delivered from bondage under the Egyptians,) the law ordained that we should every year slay that sacrifice which I before told you we slew when we came out of Egypt, and which was called the Passover" (Ant. III, 10:5).
The fact that Luke mentions Yeshua's parents going to Jerusalem for Passover is noteworthy. In reality wives and children did not always go to Jerusalem with their husbands and fathers. God commanded,
"Three times in a year all your males [Heb. zakur] shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. 17 "Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you." (Deut 16:16-17)
While the first Passover in Egypt was a family event (Ex 12:3-4), observance thereafter began to change. The later narratives of Passover indicate male participation without mention of households, although they may well have shared in the occasion (Num 9:4-10; Deut 16:16; Josh 5:10; 2Chr 30:21; 35:17). In other words, the feast was obligatory for men, but women were not bound to make such a personal appearance (Edersheim II, 10:1 citing TJ Kidd. 61c). A complicating factor in the first century was that the observance of Passover was centralized in Jerusalem, the only place where lambs could be sacrificed (Deut 16:5-6).
The added factors of time and cost meant that pilgrims from the Diaspora did not necessarily take their entire family with them to Jerusalem. Only local residents or those who lived in a reasonable distance, such as Joseph and his family, would likely enjoy Passover as a family festival.
42 and when he became twelve years, they went up according to the custom of the festival.
and: Grk. kai, conj. when: Grk. hote, adv. he became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 1 above. twelve: Grk. dōdeka, the numeral twelve. years: Grk. etos, neut. pl. See verse 36 above. The syntax of "became years twelve" signifies the completion of twelve years. Since by my reckoning Yeshua was born in the month of Tishri (September) of 3 B.C., then his 12th birthday would have been in Tishri of A.D. 10 and the Passover trip the following Nisan of A.D. 11, six months into his 13th year. A common mistake of Christian interpreters is to assume that the mention of Yeshua's age is the time of his becoming bar mitzvah, "son of the commandment" and this trip reflects assuming adult responsibilities. Yeshua likely had been studying Mishnah since he was ten years old, but a boy did not become accountable as an adult until he became thirteen years and a day old (Ab. 5:21; Kidd. 63b).
Most non-Jews think of Bar Mitzvah as a ceremony, but a Jewish boy automatically becomes bar mitzvah at 13 and a girl bat mitzvah at 12. No ceremony is needed to assume this status. In fact, there is no record of a bar mitzvah as an occasion for publicly assuming religious and legal obligations before the 15th century. The first bat mitzvah ceremony did not occur until the 20th century. (See the article Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah at the Jewish Virtual Library.) Yeshua was not yet accountable, although he could be examined, "The vows of a boy twelve years and a day are to be examined" (Nidd. 5:5). In addition, the mention of the age in relation to attending Passover required of all males (Deut 16:16-17) is significant to the Mishnah obligation of training a child a year or two before he assumed the duties of religious observances (Yoma 82a).
they: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, masc. pl. went up: Grk. anabainō, pres. part. See verse 4 above. according to: Grk. kata, prep. the custom: Grk. ethos, a way of doing things marked by recurring procedure, custom or practice. of the festival: Grk. heortē. See the previous verse. Joseph, being a righteous man (Matt 1:19) would have complied with the Torah requirement for the annual trip to Jerusalem for the major festivals. Apparently, since their marriage twelve years previously Miriam accompanied her husband on these special occasions. While there is no mention of Yeshua's siblings the travel of both parents and relatives in verse 44 below implies their presence as well.
43 And having completed the days in their returning, the boy Yeshua remained in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know.
And: Grk. kai, conj. having completed: Grk. teleioō, aor. part., to bring to a point at which nothing is missing, here the focus being on a span of time, to complete or to fulfill. the days: Grk. hēmera, masc. pl. See verse 1 above. Here the phrase refers to the timeframe for accomplishing the Passover festival, Nisan 14-21. in their returning: Grk. hupostrephō, pres. inf., to go back to a position, to return. The verb refers to the travel of pilgrims back to their homes, in this case Nazareth. the boy: Grk. pais, one in a dependent capacity, usually a male child of post-infancy. The use of pais emphasizes that being twelve years of age did not qualify as adulthood. Yeshua: See verse 21 above.
remained: Grk. hupomenō, aor., may mean (1) to stay in a place when others are leaving; remain, stay behind; or (2) be steadfast in face of difficulty; endure. The first meaning applies here. Of course, the remaining would require a certain endurance. in Jerusalem: See verse 22 above. but his parents: Grk. goneus, masc. pl. See verse 27 above. did not: Grk. ou, adv. know: Grk. ginōskō, aor., 3p-pl., to know, but has a variety of meanings, including (1) to be in receipt of information; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge (DNTT 2:395). To modern readers this may appear to be neglect, but being almost a man twelve year old Yeshua would not be supervised like a baby or young child.
44 Now having supposed him to be in their caravan, they went a journey of a day, and they were searching for him among relatives and acquaintances.
Now: Grk. de, conj. having supposed: Grk. nomizō, aor. part., to determine on the basis of ordinary reasoning, to conclude or to suppose. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. in: Grk. en, prep. the caravan: Grk. sunodia, a company of travelers, associates on a journey. In the LXX sunodia occurs only in Nehemiah 7:5, 64, where it occurs without Hebrew equivalent in reference to families gathered into groups to be enrolled in a genealogy. The Hebrew word for a traveling company or caravan is Heb. orechah (SH-736), which occurs only twice in the Tanakh (Gen 37:25; Isa 21:13). Traveling in ancient times was conducted in the company of others for the sake of safety. they went: Grk. erchomai, aor. See verse 16 above.
a journey: Grk. hodos, with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. It can also refer to the act of traveling; journey, way, trip. Then, hodos is used fig. of conduct or a manner of life (cf. Deut 11:28; Ps 1:6; 1Cor 12:31; Jas 1:8). The LXX uses hodos to translate Heb. derek (way, road, journey). of a day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 1 above. The idiom "a day's journey" does not refer to a 24-hour period, but the distance that might be traveled in the daytime. Since the journey from Jerusalem to Nazareth would take three days, they would still be in Judea after one day. and they were searching for: Grk. anazēteō, impf., to expend effort in locating someone; search for. The search probably began when the travelers stopped and camped for the evening.
for him: Grk. autos. among: Grk. en, prep. relatives: Grk. suggenēs, masc. pl., connected by lineage or related. This is the first mention of Joseph and Miriam having relatives and they may have come from Nazareth. and acquaintances: Grk. gnostos, masc. pl., someone known, an acquaintance. Interrelationships of families and neighbors in ancient Jewish culture were strong and they looked out for one another.
45 and having not found him, they returned to Jerusalem searching for him.
and: Grk. kai, conj. having not: Grk. mē, negative particle. found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. part. See verse 12 above. him: Grk. autos. they returned: Grk. hupostrephō, aor. See verse 43 above. The return trip probably began at first light, since they had gone a day's journey. to Jerusalem: See verse 22 above. searching for: Grk. anazēteō, pres. part. See the previous verse. him: Grk. autos. The syntax implies the search took place along the road, in case he was straggling behind, but primarily in Jerusalem.
46 And it happened after three days they found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, hearing them and questioning them.
And: Grk. kai, conj. it happened: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 1 above. after: Grk. meta, prep. See verse 36 above. three: Grk. treis, the numeral three. days: Grk. hēmera, fem. pl. See verse 1 above. The time period does not mean "on the fourth day." One day would have been spent traveling back to Jerusalem and then two days of searching in the city. The time period could be a hint of Yeshua's death and resurrection. they found: Grk. heuriskō, aor. See verse 12 above. him: Grk. autos. The search no doubt focused on the house where they had celebrated the Passover Seder and then houses of friends and possible relatives who lived in the city. Everywhere they would ask about their son. Such a lengthy search could easily cause anxiety to the parents, but they found him on the third day.
in: Grk. en, prep. the Temple: Grk. hieron. See verse 27 above. The Temple occupied about thirty-five acres with many courts, rooms and chambers. Their search would be confined to the public areas, and they eventually found him. The place where they found Yeshua was likely not one they considered at first. Either someone provided information or it was a matter of "we've searched everywhere else." sitting: Grk. kathezomai, pres. mid. part., to seat oneself. in: Grk. en, prep. the midst: Grk. mesos, at a point in or near the center, middle, but in a group setting 'in the midst of' or 'among.' Sitting was the normal position for teaching and learning Torah (cf. Matt 5:1; Mark 4:1; 9:35; 13:3; Luke 5:3, 17; John 8:2), and the talmidim (disciples) of a rabbi would typically gather around him (e.g. Mark 3:32, 34; 10:1). The fact that Yeshua is literally the center of attention is striking in the circumstances.
of the teachers: Grk. didaskalos, masc. pl., teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. The Greek term occurs 59 times in the Besekh, all but 9 in the apostolic narratives. In the LXX didaskalos occurs only in 2 Maccabees 1:10 to denote Aristobulus, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community, who, having dedicated an exposition of the Pentateuch to King Ptolemy Philometor, is called a teacher clearly for this reason. In Greek education teaching was concerned with imparting knowledge or technical skills. Philo, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher (25 BC - AD 50), employs this meaning when he uses the term "teacher" to refer to both Moses (On Giants 54) and God (Who is the Heir of Divine Things? 102).
In both cases Philo regards a teacher as one who imparts knowledge, not as one who lays ethical demands before others. Hebrew education in the Tanakh, however, is more concerned with obedience than imparting information. The situation is different in the Qumran texts where moreh occurs more frequently, often with a qualifying phrase like "the righteous one," probably in reference to the founder of the sect (DNTT 3:767). Elsewhere didaskalos is used interchangeably with rhabbi (Matt 23:8; John 1:38; 3:2). The men Yeshua sat among were scholars and recognized authorities in interpretation and application of Torah, probably scribes and Pharisees, members of the Sanhedrin.
hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. part. See verse 18 above. The verb intends that Yeshua was listening and understanding. them: Grk. autos, masc. pl. The implication is that when Yeshua's parents found him the teachers were discussing some matter of Torah interpretation. Yeshua was respectful and gave his earnest attention to the discussion taking place. and questioning: Grk. eperotaō, pres. part., to put a question to, to ask. them: Grk. autos, masc. pl. In advanced Jewish study of Scripture a rabbi would engage a student by asking a question; the student would respond in kind with a related question, showing he understood what the rabbi was asking and thereby advancing the discussion (Pryor 25). At some point Yeshua decided to ask a question regarding the matter being discussed, quite permissible under the rules of the court.
The exact location of the discussion between Yeshua and the learned leaders is not given. Geldenhuys suggests that he was in one of the courts where a number of Jewish doctors had gathered together for disputations among themselves as they were accustomed to do after such a festival (127). The text provides four clues. First, he was in or inside the Temple complex. Yeshua was not in one of the scores of synagogues of Jerusalem, nor was he in an area where Miriam could not enter, such as the Court of Priests or the Court of Israelites. Yeshua was in a place where Torah scholars met. Likely candidates included three chambers in each of which a Bet Din ("House of Judgment") sat. These locations are described in the Mishnah (Sanh. 10:4).
The first Bet Din, a court of three, sat in the gate of the Temple Mount. Gill and Lightfoot say this area is the Court of the Gentiles, but Rashi, the Medieval Jewish commentator, says it was the Court of Women (fn 20, Sanh. 10:4), which is much more likely. The second Bet Din, a court of twenty-three, sat in the gate of the Court of Israelites. The third Bet Din, the Great Sanhedrin, the court of seventy, conducted official sessions in the Hall of Hewn Stones (Heb. Gazith), located on the south side of the Temple (Sanh. 10:4), also known as the Cell of the Counselors (Yoma 1:1). Both Gill and Lightfoot believe that Gazith is where Joseph and Miriam found Yeshua. The seating of the Sanhedrin was configured in a semi-circle, and the center of the semi-circle was the customary place for an outsider to engage in question-and-answer dialog with the scholars (Sanh. 5:4).
However, there is a location I believe to be more likely. Calculating the total time period involved for the Passover, the travel away from and return to Jerusalem, and the search it may well been that the parents found Yeshua on the Sabbath. On Sabbaths and during festivals (such as Pesach) members of the Sanhedrin would meet within the "Chel" to conduct discussions on application of Torah (Sanh. 88b). The Tractate Middoth 1:5, 2:3 describes the Chel as being a level promenade or terrace running along the north and south sides of the temple, 10 cubits broad, with 12 steps leading up to it. See the illustrations here and here.
47 Moreover all those hearing him were astonished at his understanding and his answers.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. all: Grk. pas, adj., masc. pl. those: Grk. ho, definite article, masc. pl. hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. part. See verse 18 above. The phrasing suggests a sizable audience. him: Grk. autos. were astonished: Grk. existēmi, impf. mid., expresses the idea of causing or undergoing a psychological change outside normal expectation. In this context the verb means to make a profound impression on by astonishing, to be amazed. at: Grk. epi, prep. his understanding: Grk. sunesis, the faculty of perceiving readily with the mind, understanding, comprehension, insight. and his answers: Grk. apokrisis, answer or reply given in response to an examination or question. Yeshua's answers, given in question form, revealed his ability to analyze and apply Torah similar to a well educated scribe. It's no wonder the Torah teachers were impressed.
48 And having seen him, they were astonished and his mother said to him, "Child why have you done thus to us? Behold! Your father and I, being in pain, were seeking you!"
And: Grk. kai, conj. having seen: Grk. horaō, aor. part. See verse 15 above. him: Grk. autos. they were astonished: Grk. ekplēssomai, to be amazed or astounded. and his mother: Grk. mētēr. See verse 33 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. to him: Grk. autos. Child: Grk. teknon, voc., child of undetermined age, here older than paidion (verse 27 above) and pais (verse 43 above). The word reminded Yeshua that he was not yet an independent adult. why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. have you done: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 27 above. thus: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. to us: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the first person.
The objection is not strictly that Yeshua remained in Jerusalem, but that he did so without telling his parents. This is a serious question that appears to impugn Yeshua's ethical choice. In one sense it is a typical parental response taking the child's behavior as a personal and purposeful affront. Boys could be given over to a rabbi at this age to begin advanced education, although such training normally began at 15. By Jewish reasoning Yeshua could not be held accountable for violating the fifth commandment because he was not yet a "son of the commandment." Nevertheless, Joseph and Miriam could mete out punishment for his lack of regard. He was still under their authority.
Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 10 above. Your father: Grk. patēr. See verse 33 above. Joseph was the legal father of Yeshua and thus had the authority of a father under the Torah. Miriam is not simply trying to perpetuate a deception regarding Yeshua's paternity. and I: Grk. kagō, conj., formed from combining kai and egō and serves to link in parallel a personal affirmation by way of addition to or confirmation of a preceding statement. being in pain: Grk. edunaō, pres. mid. part., to be in pain physically or emotionally. were seeking: Grk. zēteō, impf., to be on the search for, in the sense of looking for someone or something one has difficulty in locating. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. Miriam describes their anguish and worry as affecting their own bodies. How could Yeshua be so thoughtless?
49 He said to them, "Why is it that you sought me? Did you not know that it behooves me to be near the things of my Father?"
Why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See the previous verse. is it that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 11 above. you sought: Grk. zēteō, impf. See the previous verse. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Yeshua demonstrated his skill in answering not only the teachers' questions but also that of his mother. After all, he does not dare display disrespect of his parents in front of the Torah teachers. Did you not: Grk. ou, adv., negative particle. know: Grk. oida, plperf, 2p-pl., to know in an objective sense, to have information about; also to have discernment about, to grasp the significance of the information received.
The pluperfect tense of oida identifies action in the past that is complete and the results of the action in existence at some point in past time as indicated by the context. The question hints that Joseph and Miriam should have drawn some conclusions from what the angel Gabriel told them in the nativity narrative. The question in one sense suggests that the parents had been in denial. They had been informed that Yeshua would be both the Savior of Israel (Matt 1:20-23) and the King of Israel (Luke 1:31-33). Granted, he had to grow up, but didn't they realize that the purpose for his existence had to be fulfilled and that he would take positive action to bring it about?
that: Grk. hoti. it behooves: Grk. dei, impersonal verb from deō ('lack, stand in need of') and thus conveys the idea of something that's necessary, something that must or needs to happen; "it is necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper." me: Grk. egō. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 4 above. near: Grk. en, prep. See verse 6 above. The preposition is used here to denote proximity. the things: Grk. ho, definite article, neut. pl, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Here the plural form stands in relation to the following noun, which is singular. Two versions render the plural ho as "business" (KJV, NKJV), but most versions have "house." (NOTE: The Greek word for "house," oikos, does not occur in the verse. Yeshua said what he meant.) The CJB has "affairs." The TLV is more literal with "things" and reflects the broader implication of Yeshua's words. Yeshua is not saying, "Didn't you know I would be in the Temple?"
of my Father: patēr, See verse 33 above. Yeshua clearly uses the term of the Father in heaven, and not Joseph. Yeshua's answer could have a double meaning. On a relational level he could be alluding to the fact that his father had the responsibility for his full education (see verse 40 above), and he was aiding his father in this task by coming to the center of Jewish learning. While a boy began serious study of the Bible at age 5 and study of the Mishnah (Jewish law) at age ten, he would begin study of the Talmud (oral tradition and rabbinic teaching) at age 15 (Ab. 5:21), often under the tutelage of an experienced Rabbi. As the discussion with the Torah teachers at the Temple demonstrated Yeshua was clearly ready for such advanced education.
One of the unexplained mysteries of the incarnation is at what point did Yeshua have awareness that he was more than a human being. On a spiritual level Yeshua indicated that he now had awareness of his oneness with the heavenly Father and his Messianic mission. The "things" of his Father would naturally bring him to the Temple. Yeshua may have gone there to fulfill the prophecy of Malachi, "And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple" and "He will purify the sons of Levi" (Mal 3:1, 3). Yeshua began the purification process by challenging the thinking of the Torah teachers. Of course, his real work of coming to the Temple and cleansing it would have to await his adult ministry.
50 But they understood not the message he spoke to them.
But: Grk. kai, conj. they: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, masc. pl.. Both Joseph and Miriam had the same reaction. understood: Grk. suniēmi, to grasp the significance of a word or action, to understand or to comprehend. not: Grk. ou, adv. the message: Grk. rhēma. See verse 15 above. he spoke: Grk. laleō, aor. See verse 15 above. to them: Grk. autos, masc. pl. Joseph and Miriam may have understood that Yeshua had offered an answer to save face for all of them, but they obviously did not comprehend the subtext of his statement.
Maturation in Nazareth, 2:51-52
51 And he went down with them to Nazareth and was subject to them. And his mother treasured all these matters in her heart.
And: Grk. kai, conj. he went down: Grk. katabainō, aor., to proceed in a direction that is down. The Bible typically speaks of leaving Jerusalem as "going down" to whatever destination since the city rested on seven mountains. The verb stresses that Yeshua left in cooperation with his parents. with: Grk. meta, prep. them: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, masc. pl. to Nazareth: Grk. Nazareth, which transliterates the Heb. Natzeret. See verse 4 above. and was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 1 above. subject: Grk. hupotassō, pres. pass. part., to be in compliance with requirements for order, to subject, or to subordinate. Hupotassō is derived from hupo (under) and tassō (arrange, appoint), which originated as a military term where a rank structure is clearly defined (DNTT 1:476). The present tense indicates the continuing nature of Yeshua's response. to them: Grk. autos, masc. pl. Obedience was given to both Joseph and Miriam.
And his mother: Grk. mētēr. See verse 33 above. treasured: Grk. diatēreō, impf., to guard carefully to ensure final safety and successful delivery. The verb hints at Miriam's role in preserving the nativity narrative to pass on to Luke. all: Grk. pas, adj., masc. pl. See verse 3 above. these: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, neut. pl. matters: Grk. rhēma, neut. pl. See verse 15 above. In this usage the word emphasizes that which is remarkable or noteworthy, and may be rendered as a matter, thing or event. in her heart: Grk. kardia. See verse 19 above. The point is that Miriam treasured the memory of this event or conversation with her son at the Temple. She did not regard his statement to her as disrespectful or rebellious, but he was inviting her into the secret counsels of God. Miriam believed Yeshua was trying to say something important to her and she often reflected on what his message might portend for the future.
52 And Yeshua advanced in wisdom and stature, and favor with God and men.
And: Grk. kai, conj. Yeshua advanced: Grk. prokoptō, impf., to move forward in a condition or circumstance, to advance. in: Grk. en, prep. wisdom: Grk. sophia, exceptional endowment of discernment, understanding and insight. In Hebrew culture sophia always had a practical and ethical aspect. and stature: Grk. hēlikia, height or stature, a term of physical growth, but also of maturity in the sense of the developmental stages of life. and favor: Grk. charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity; also, a benefit conferred freely as an expression of good will. with: Grk. para, prep., with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys here a close association; 'with, in association with.' God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 13 above.
and men: Grk. anthrōpos, masc. pl. See verse 14 above. "God and men" could be an idiomatic expression denoting heaven and earth. Yet, the preposition para denotes spending time in the company of the divine and the human. The verse summarizes with typical Jewish conciseness the physical, social, psychological and spiritual development of Yeshua growing from youth into adulthood.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at BibleHub.com.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah(1883). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993. Also online.
Edersheim-Sketches: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), Sketches of Jewish Social Life (1876). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994. Also online.
Finegan: Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology: Principles of Time Reckoning in the Ancient World and Problems of Chronology in the Bible. Rev. ed. Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.
Geldenhuys: Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1951. (NICNT)
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Josephus: Flavius Josephus (Yosef ben Matityahu; c. 75-99 A.D.), Wars of the Jews. trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, Zondervan Corporation, 1986.
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.
NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.
Pryor: Dwight A. Pryor, Behold the Man: Discovering our Hebrew Lord, the Historical Jesus of Nazareth. Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, 2005.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 vol. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Santala: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Trans. William Kinnaird. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1992. Online.
Steinmann: Andrew E. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology. Concordia Publishing House, 2011.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Moody Press, 1980.
Varner: William C. Varner, Jacob’s Dozen. The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1987.
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